Paicines Ranch was brought primarily for conservation purposes – the real passion here is to restore the grasslands through use of holistic management, rotational grazing etc. Purchased with IT money – Silicon Valley seems to be inadvertently funding some interesting activity! The property is about 7,500 acres with low rainfall – long-term avg around 12-14 in (by my calculations this is about 300mm which seems like NOT MUCH), but has been a lot less than that during recent drought.
What was most interesting to me here was their experiences trying out different approaches to direct marketing / distribution of the beef e.g.
- Tried farmers’ markets but didn’t really work – hard to make meat look enticing without it defrosting / spoiling. People often wanted a different size or cut than what was available etc.
- Don’t really deal with restaurants – they tend to want lots of one cut, on specific days and prefer fresh (to frozen). This makes things hard. Yet to find a chef that is ready for the challenge of taking a whole animal and working out what to do with it . . (see later post on Parker Farms in Kansas City)
- Best option: partnership with fruit & veg CSA, not least because their customers already know how to cook!
- They also sell over the internet, but have no set delivery schedule – they deliver when someone is going to town so that there is no extra fuel used.
Tips – where to focus next
- VALUE-ADD – people love to buy things they don’t have to cook – big opportunities for value-add in meat e.g. marinated roasts, sausages etc. Getting enterprises in the area that develop up these capabilities and markets would do wonders.
- Have gone with USDA certified – cost of mobile slaughter seems unviable and their own attempt to run slaughter and packing-house didn’t work out.
- Emphasised the importance of keeping local packing plants wherever they exist – enough in the region for them at the moment but they are hard to keep viable, need to hang onto them.
NB. There was discussion about the inability to irrigate due to prohibitive cost of energy pumping water up the hills. Fortunately (for those Australians looking at these hills), there is going to be a workshop on Keyline in the area in the coming weeks . .