Findings from a recent joint study between the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and Utah State University Extension Department of Applied Economics indicates Utah markets demonstrate the potential for growth opportunities for Utah beef processing and sales businesses.
Utah’s cattle industry accounts for roughly 78% of the state’s cash receipts for meat animals, bringing in just shy of $450 million annually. Dairy and hay are two other large sectors of Utah agriculture, both heavily impacted by local cattle and meat processing. Currently, most Utah cattle are sold as calves and are sent out of state for finishing. With enough demand and processing facilities, Utah beef could feasibly stay in Utah to be processed and sold. This could potentially provide additional revenue for Utah ranchers and economic benefits throughout the state, particularly in rural areas.
The impacts of COVID-19 on the food supply chain highlighted the need for increased capacity and resiliency in Utah’s meat supply chain. Processing plants faced significant impacts, with harvest and processing numbers approximately double those from the same period the previous year. The study indicates wait times for beef processing in 2020 reached 6-12 months, with some wait times lasting as long as 24 months according to anecdotal accounts from producers.
The study also emphasizes the desire of Utah consumers for local beef products and the strong interest of Utah producers in growth opportunities. Smaller processing plants in regional areas can increase the resiliency of the meat supply in Utah and provide the potential for ranchers to develop additional revenue streams. Efforts to build brand awareness and availability as well as education for consumers on how to directly purchase beef from producers will be critical to the success of local beef operations. Programs like Utah’s Own or marketing cooperatives could help satisfy this need.
Read the study in full, including a detailed financial feasibility assessment for very small-scale processing plants here. For questions or additional information about economic development opportunities, please contact Linda Clark Gillmor, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Director of Marketing and Economic Development at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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