Farmhand Foods: Developing Innovative Business and Marketing Strategies that Create Market Opportunities for Small-Scale Livestock Producers

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
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Small Business Information
101 W MAIN ST, Durham, NC, 27701-3603
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Jennifer Curtis
Chief Operating Officer
(919) 306-4008
Business Contact:
Jennifer Curtis
Chief Operating Officer
(919) 306-4008
Research Institution:

The US is rapidly losing small-to-medium scale farmers. In the 10 years between 2007 and 1997, the U.S. lost over 11,000 farms and over 32 million acres of farmland. To save and attract new farmers to agriculture requires that farming be a profitable enterprise and that farmers have access to wholesale markets. Industry trends in consolidation and vertical integration, particularly in the meat industry, have made it extremely challenging for independent livestock producers to penetrate these markets. At the same time, consumer interest in local, pasture-raised and other niche meat products is on the rise. A recent review of meat sales through natural retail grocery stores shows the ?natural and organic? meat sector growing at a much stronger rate than conventional meat sales. Pasture-based meat production is an important and viable enterprise for many farmers however those producers interested in marketing their own meat find themselves ill-equipped, on their own, to provide what wholesale markets demand. Farmhand Foods is a new, innovative North Carolina business designed to provide small-to-medium scale pasture-based livestock producers with access to wholesale market opportunities, and to create jobs in allied businesses, including meat processing. As a branded meat company, Farmhand Foods sources from a network of local producers who raise their animals humanely, on pasture, without feeding antibiotics or animal by-products or using added hormones. Farmhand Foods? co-owners believe in doing business with transparency and therefore trace the company?s meat products back to the farm of origin so that their customers know exactly where their meat comes from and how it was raised. Farmhand Foods works with small-scale, USDA inspected slaughter and processing facilities to harvest and fabricate their meats. Farmhand Foods focuses on doing the legwork necessary to market and distribute its products to restaurant and retail customers. Farmhand Foods was started, at least in part, as a counterpoint to the intensive trends in consolidation and concentration seen throughout the meat sector. It is an innovative test case for the nation, and the south in particular, of the viability of a mission-driven business model in the meat sector that can provide social, environmental and economic benefits along the local meat supply chain. Farmhand Foods has developed an award-winning brand and local supply chain that includes 16 livestock producers, 2 small-scale meat processors, and 25 restaurant and retail customers. It is well on its way to achieving significant societal benefits but specific research is needed to assist with scaling the business beyond its current size and scope.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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