Page 3: Market Research

Because cattle are central to regenerative agriculture and to our own farming operations, our initial research agenda will focus on industry and consumer demand for pasture-raised and pasture-finished certified organic beef.

Industry and Consumer Demand

Retail consumer preferences for organic food are well established. If our market research indicates sufficient industry and consumer demand, we intend to build commercial-scale grass-raised and grass-finished herds using a “modified” organic business model backed by accredited investors from our area. As explained below, modified means systematically moving away from conventional corn and bean rotations by developing large pasture-based specialty beef herds.

Financing this transition is central to regenerative agriculture in much of the Missouri Valley. Our research products will emphasize profit opportunities for cow-calf producers, landowners, and local accredited investors.

We are particularly interested in research that helps young cow-calf producers increase direct-to-consumer brand profits for pasture-raised and pasture-finished beef. These brands offer farm and ranch communities an opportunity to build toward local and regional retail grocery and food service markets.

Our business plans will accentuate product benefits that can be measured against the performance of completing non-local brands. These benefits include new jobs, higher pay, and better health along with improved soil and water quality and wildlife habitat.

Research Strategy

It is well known that beef processing is not readily available to small producers who are interested in regenerative agriculture and local retail markets. This means that area feeders and packers who have established specialty beef outlets are important partners.

My informal discussions with cow-calf farmers, feeders, and packers near Omaha and Des Moines suggest some interest in grass-raised and grass-finished beef. However, both buyers and sellers are hesitant. Buyers need reasonable estimates of the production potential, quality, and the identities of the producers. Producers need forward contracts with experienced buyers. Both groups need production standards. 

Production Standards

Although production standards for organic beef are in place, the beef industry needs a systematic way to increase the number of quality grass-raised and grass-fed cattle – without the expense of organic certification during product development. Producers can move towards grass-finished and organic in the future if consumer research is positive.

My proposed standard will address the grain versus forage issue and medications. A clear production standard is the first step in evaluating industury and consumer demand for beef from commercial scale producer-owned regenerative farms.

A sliding grass-fed standard can be based on existing standards for natural beef. According to South Dakota State Extension Beef Specialists, “…most natural-beef programs have generally adopted “never-ever” policies that are in line with their customers’ demands. Never-ever signifies no growth implants, no antibiotics (including ionophores), and no animal by-products in the feed.”

I suggest expanding this natural-beef standard as follows:

Step 1 “never-ever-never” cattle can be managed as above but without genetically modified (GM) feed and forage.  

Step 2 beef would be produced using Step 1 methods plus defined amounts of organic feed and forage (transitional or certified) expressed as a percentage of the total diet. 

Step 3 cattle would be certified organic at birth and raised under Step 2 standards.

Step 4 organic beef would be certified as: 1) Grass-raised and grain-finished, or 2) Grass-raised and grass-finished. 

Please contact me for more information.

Thank you.

Jim Steffen

Posted 07-31-2022