You've probably dreamed of direct marketing product at a significant price premium. Most beef producers have, says Harold Harpster, Penn State animal scientist and beef producer. Cutting out the middleman is appealing, but not all that easy to accomplish.
Labeling beef with specialty claims can be a route to increased profitability. But do your homework to make certain you've earned the right to make the claim. It's one thing to sell a little freezer beef to friends and neighbors, and tell them how great your production practices are. But he adds that it's quite another to put a label claim on your product and make it available to anyone!
Organic labels involve certification. And now the "natural" label is under scrutiny. U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently seeking public input on what a "natural" label should imply.
Do your homework!
Two agencies are key in applying for a product label. The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has a wealth of information at www.fsis.usda.gov. Harpster suggests going to the alpha index and picking "L" for labeling information.
Another must-check agency is the Agricultural Marketing Service at www.ams.usda.gov. Be forewarned. It'll take time to wade through all the regulations. But contact phone numbers are provided for clarifying direct questions you may have.
Consider Freezer Beef School
An all-day freezer beef school will be offered by the Penn State Meat Laboratory and Beef Education Center on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the State College campus. The cost is $50 per person, including lunch and handout materials.
Topics include: finishing options, special marketing claims, beef cuts and yields, marketing tools, food safety regulations, and working with processors.
Download a registration form from: www.das.psu.edu/research-extension/meat/pdf/FreezerBeefRegDec09.pdf. The registration deadline is November 20. The course is limited to 40 participants.