The changing nature of the meat industry, even before the advent of COVID-19, may be offering producers new opportunities if they decide to sell direct. But that’s a big step. A new program at work in five Western states may offer new opportunities. The Western Meat School is an agribusiness development course focused on direct-marketing meat.
The program is a hybrid learning experience for farmers, ranchers, butchers and others. There are in-person class locations offered in Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico — and online access offered for everybody else.
The six-week course meets Wednesday evenings starting Nov. 4. The program will cover key topics in production, processing and marketing to produce high-quality meat and then sell it to diverse market channels. This is not a processing or butchering course.
The adult education course is intended for a range of individuals, including farmers and ranchers with at least a couple of years of experience; meat processors and butchers; meat buyers, distributors and retailers; Extension specialists, agents and educators; and those from nongovernmental organizations working on local livestock and meat supply-chain issues.
The entire course will be available online in real time. Socially distant group watching sites are planned for those five states. For example, the on-site location in Billings, Mont., can accommodate up to 12 people, depending on guidance at the time from the state of Montana, Montana State University, local public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The group component may be adapted or canceled for safety.
Western Meat School curriculum
This is a deep dive into many parts of setting up a direct-selling system for meat. For example, the Nov. 4 opening course is “Start with the market in mind: Identifying and developing new markets for meat." The class includes experts from Colorado, Oregon, Montana and New Mexico.
Other aspects of the curriculum deal with finishing ruminants for optimal gains and high-quality meat; animal handling and meat quality, including a hoof-to-rail demonstration; the basics of meat processing, carcass quality, meat science, fabrication and regulations; processing for specific markets; maximizing carcass value; packaging and labeling; and selling meat, attracting customers and building loyalty.
The class includes two optional modules. One is focused on hogs and opportunities with these animals. The second is focused on meat pricing, including determining the cost of production and developing pricing strategies.
The course cost is $120 per individual, or $160 for couples or business partners. Online registration is available at westernmeatschool.com/enroll. Registration is open. The program is a project of the Niche Meat Processing Assistance Network at Oregon State University. Learn more at westernmeatschool.com. Get more information about the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network at nichemeatprocessing.org.