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DISCUSS: Hitching Post 'Meat' in the Middle

Image credit: Michigan Farm Bureau
Date Posted: July 29, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly drew consumers and decision-makers’ attention to the critical role meat processing availability plays in the food supply chain. Think back to the early days of the pandemic when grocery store shelves were bare of essentials like peanut butter, toilet paper, and meat products. While the industry knew this was not an issue of supply, nor demand – the issue was in the middle with processing the products and getting them onto the shelves for consumers. 

What presented in 2020 as a challenge has marinated into an opportunity for the food and agriculture sector to partner with legislators, regulators and others to improve farmer accessibility to meat processing facilities, and ultimately increase meat processing capacity.

In an ideal environment, these conversations and initiatives would lead to farmers having readily available livestock markets and consumers having improved access to the meat products they demand. Rather than farmers having to wait months to have be able to take animals in to be processed.

This conversation kicked off on Michigan Farm Bureau’s Hitching Post session, “Meat” in the Middle, on July 20. If you’re interesting in listening to live expert panel, a recording is published to the MFB YouTube Channel. The panelist included:

  • Emily Boeve, Ottawa County Farm Bureau member. Boeve farms near Zeeland alongside her family, raising Dexter cattle, sheep and goats for breeding stock and market. Their herd supplies the family’s own retail sales, including at area farmers markets.
  • Jimmy Love, Chippewa County Farm Bureau member. Love owns and operates Love Meats in Rudyard.
  • Tina Conklin, MSU Product Center Associate Director and MSU Food Processing and Innovation Center Director. 
  • Ernie Birchmeier, manager of MFB’s Center for Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations and the organization’s livestock and dairy specialist.

Serving as moderator, Birchmeier said ‘Meat’ in the Middle explored how industry consolidation and the pandemic brought about renewed interest, discussions and possible solutions to the meat processing industry. He also explained the significance of this issue to Farm Bureau’s member-driven policy.

“Last year county Farm Bureaus submitted numerous policy recommendations related to the meat processing sector, which led to our members crafting a new policy entirely dedicated to the topic” Birchmeier said. “I’m looking forward to this conversation because I think it will shed light on how we can advocate for legislative and regulatory changes and how Farm Bureau members can influence and educate our decision-makers on these issues.”

“I’m also excited to hear from our panelists about their first-hand experience dealing with these issues and the potential they see in their local communities for stability and growth.”

Read more about Farm Bureau policy on meat processing:

Questions:
  1. With a brand-new state policy on meat processing, are there any amendments you would propose through the county Farm Bureau policy development process?
  2. Have meat processors returned to normal in your area? If not, how far out are they booking? Are there other processing facilities and / or standards that should be reviewed so that we do not have this issue again?
  3. What role should USDA and MDARD play in creating fairness in the marketplace for different sized processors?
  4. In the next five years, what will the industry need to be prepared for?
If this topic doesn’t whet your appetite:
  1. What local issues are on farmers’ minds in your area that should be addressed in the next five years?
  2. What other CAG discussion topics would you like to see in the coming months?
  3. Your Farm Bureau staff in Lansing are here for YOU! What specific questions do you have for them? What assistance can they provide?

SUBMIT YOUR RESPONSES via email at [email protected] or postal mail: MFB Community Group Discussion Topic Responses, ATTN: Michelle Joseph, 7373 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917. Please include your name and CAG affiliation!

Media Contacts
Ernie Birchmeier headshot

Ernie Birchmeier

Senior Industry Relations Specialist
517-679-5335 [email protected]
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