Knowing where your food is coming from and the practices used to produce it — as well as showing support for small-scale and independent growers — have long been part of the appeal of shopping at local farmers markets for fruits and vegetables.
Now more people are using that reasoning and those principles when it comes to bringing the main course to the dinner table.
As prices have risen across every aisle at the grocery store, the meat counter also has not been spared. Supply chain bottlenecks, labor issues, drought and energy costs are some of the major contributors to the recent inflation; however, livestock producers aren’t cashing in on those inflated prices.
The cost of raising livestock continues to inch up for the producer due to the same previously mentioned issues, but the price they are paid when they sell the livestock — or the live weight price — is not reflective of the same rate of inflation customers are seeing through the glass cases at the meat counter.
At a local consumer level, a movement that is gaining more attention is sourcing meat directly from a producer. Many farmers have relationships with independent butcher shops and are selling beef and pork as a whole or partial animal (half or quarter, for example), or in even smaller bundles. The consumer pays the farmer an agreed-upon price per pound that includes processing. While it is an upfront financial commitment, consumers have the benefit of buying directly from the people who raised the animal.
Nick and Candace Spitzley, owners of Spitzley Farms in Eaton County’s Vermontville, have been selling processed beef that they raise to consumers for about 10 years. Candace Spitzley acknowledged that their prices are a little higher than a national grocery chain might be, but she believes their customers appreciate knowing they are buying direct from a producer that does not use growth hormones on their animals.
“It takes 18-24 months to grow a cow until it’s ready to butcher,” she said, noting their investment in the animals. “We’re not just doing this to pay our bills. We’re doing this to raise our family.”