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Direct Marketing Beef Cattle In Virginia


Agriculture has played a major role in Virginia's economy since the establishment of the first English settlement in Jamestown hundreds of years ago. Today, agriculture still remains the number one industry in Virginia.

Beef is the state's second leading commodity with more than 20,000 beef farms located throughout the Commonwealth. Like many other industries, Virginia's beef producers face many challenges in the current economic climate.

Direct-Marketing Beef

As farmers look for ways to increase their profitability, many are considering marketing beef directly to consumers as an alternative to commodity beef production. While direct-marketing has its own set of challenges, the benefits include improved sustainability of farm operations and a potential increase in profits.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Study

In a study conducted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, forty-two Virginia farmers involved in direct-marketing answered questions about their farm practices, processing and promotion of their beef products.

Study Results

Virginia's beef producers face multiple challenges, including rising costs of inputs and unstable selling prices. In addition, constantly changing regulatory demands often require additional investments that further reduce profitability.

These issues make it challenging to operate a profitable beef-cattle business. Direct-marketing offers an alternative selling method that may increase farmers' incomes. This selling approach requires direct contact with the consumer, something typically handled by other agents in the commodity beef market. Farmers are learning all the ins and outs of how to market their product directly to the public.

How Virginia Beef Cattle Farmers Are Selling Straight To Consumers

As farmers enter the direct-marketing arena, they are learning about effective selling techniques and marketing methods. Expected costs associated with direct selling are

  • Branding
  • Packaging
  • Advertising
  • Additional time and energy costs in marketing the product
  • Additional labor required

Identifying the right target market, promoting the product and exposure are key to direct marketing success.

Most beef farms selling directly promote their beef as

  • pasture-fed
  • grass-fed
  • natural and/or local

Direct farm sales and farmers' markets have proven to be the two most successful market outlets. Sales at farmers' markets provide great visibility and have great potential to foster relationships directly with customers creating loyal clientele, repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising.

Other tried and true advertising choices include

  • e-mail lists
  • newsletters
  • websites
  • newspaper advertising

The Future Of Direct Marketing Beef

Many farms are considering a direct-marketing approach and some have already cautiously entered the market. Currently, most Virginia farms involved in direct-marketing are still selling through the commodity market while selling a portion of their beef directly to consumers.

The direct-marketing of beef by farmers is in the early stages of development with no standardized business model yet defined. Production, marketing, and business methods vary from farm to farm.

While there is still a lot to be learned about the direct-marketing of beef, this emerging market has already proven successful and is changing how consumers choose to buy their beef.

For more information on this subject, read the full study published by the Virginia Cooperative Extension:

For additional information for your beef cattle operation, contact one of our livestock specialists.


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