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The ecomomics of selling local meat in restaurants [Economics
Posted on January 11, 2013 @ 06:45:00 AM by Paul Meagher

If you were raising livestock such as cattle, pigs, or poultry, you might think that you hit the motherload if a busy local restaurant, or better yet, a restaurant chain, offered to buy your livestock meat to serve to their customers. Isn't this the dream of the local food movement? Local farmer does good selling his meat to local restaurant.

Farming entrepreneur Joel Salatin raises cattle, pigs, and poultry and tells us why local farmers find it difficult to supply meat at a profit to successful restaurants and fast food outlets. The problem boils down to the fact that these outlets don't want meat from the whole animal, they just want selected cuts of meat. If the farmer can't sell the whole animal then it is very difficult to sell their beef, pork, lamb, or chicken at a profit.

Chipolte Mexican Grill only uses about 18 percent of the carcass, so any supplier needs to find a home for the rest of the critter.The bottom line is that the lack of variety in the fast food simple-menu model creates an inherent inaccessibility to small-scale local producers who need to move the whole animal. The only way a narrow-spectrum fast food place can exist is to be able to cherry-pick from a big enough inventory pool.

In this regard, the specialization, simplification, and routinization of the fast food model discourages access by non-industrial local farms. While we smaller local farms may produce a significant volume of product, we don't normally do enough of any piece of an item to supply such a narrow protocol in such volume. In this respect, the fast food industry has been a driving force in changing the landscape of the food system.

If you are wondering why local livestock producers don't sell to your local fast food outlet or restaurant, their narrow-spectrum use is one of the reasons. Joel has made some inroads into selling his local meat to Chipolte Mexican Grill, but in involves a) working with an owner who is committed to local sourcing, and b) finding markets for a significant portion of the carcass that they don't want on their menus - the "we only serve white meat here" problem.

In conclusion, the fast food model makes it difficult for local consumers to patronize local food producers. The fast food model is also not particularly sustainable so if you want to support local and sustainable food production, you might want to think twice about pulling up to that drive through. To get local meat into your local eating establishments is going to require a) innovation in local food systems, and b) consumers who are willing to have some dark meat with their white meat in order to make it economic for a local poultry producer to sell their chicken in a local eating establishment.

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