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Consumers (ahem, co-producers) are getting wiser about meat.

They are asking questions about where it comes from, how it was raised, and how it was killed. They are demanding grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork. But is the supply always there? Are the channels for getting the product to the consumer always there? How can we help consumers learn more about sustainable meat production and how can we facilitate producers in marketing their product and connecting with consumers?

Directly Following Slow Food USA’s National Congress and dovetailing into Slow Food Nation, two of Slow Food USA’s Regional Governors, Matt Jones from Denver and Larry Martin from Russian River, CA), organized SFUSA’s first ever Meat Working Group to begin to tackle these issues and to see how Slow Food USA’s netowrk can help. They gathered together a stellar crew that included:

  • Stan Schutte – Hog producer, multi species processor IA
  • Will Harris – Grassfed beef producer/processor, White Oak Pastures GA
  • Marjorie Bender – American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,TN
  • Carrie Balkcom – American Grassfed Association (AGA) FL/CO
  • Dr. Patricia Whisnant – Veterinarian, Grassfed Beef Producer/Processor, AGA MO
  • Brian Kenny – Grassfed beef producer, Hearst Ranch CA
  • Jim Reichardt – poultry producer/ processor CA
  • Ralph Benson – Sonoma Land Trust CA
  • Sam Goldberger – innovative processor, entrepreneur CA

Slow Food USA leaders and guests attended to learn about the issues we face with respect to animal welfare, species and breeds, provenance, environmental concerns especially production practices -traditional (feedlot/CAFO) and alternative (small scale, sustainable).

As Matt reported, “What became apparent immediately was the need for consumer education about meat production. What we don’t know can hurt us and, has an enormous impact on not just the food we eat but on the ground upon which it is raised. The issue raised repeatedly by these world-class operators was the economic pressure on them to survive in a market where consumers (co-producers) do not have the ability to make informed purchase decisions. A generic meat case cannot educate eaters about the issues that affect their food. If honorable and respectful farmers and ranchers, who are making a meaningful difference in our food supply system, are forced to compete on a price point basis alone, they cannot be expected to survive.”

As a result, the group has decided to form a Meat Working Group to improve communication about meat issues. They already have several great ideas–stay tuned to the Slow Food USA website and blog for further information about how you can get involved.