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West: Ranch marketing of finished cattle

Carmen Willmore for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2020

As ranchers adapt to changes in our industry, many have begun marketing their finished cattle directly to consumers. While we find new ways to reach consumers and get our beef directly in their hands, it is still important to ensure your family and farm assets are protected from any risk associated with custom sales and direct marketing.

In addition to direct marketing, many producers who have historically marketed quarter, half or whole beef to neighbors and family may see an uptick in sales in the coming year. While most Western states allow the sale of whole animals for custom-exempt slaughter and processing, this doesn’t include individual cuts of meat unless your state has made an exception for that. To market cattle this way, the animal should be weighed and purchased by the buyer before slaughter to demonstrate a clear ownership exchange prior to slaughter. Once slaughtered, the consumer will pay the cutting and wrapping fee to the butcher and pick up their animal from the processor.

However, during this process, there are many areas that can create sticky situations when it comes to liability and should be discussed with your insurance agent. When it comes to insurance, most farm liability policies only cover “on-farm” activities directly involved with production. In the case of cow-calf operations, this would not include the harvest and sale of product direct to consumers. To properly cover non-farming activities such as direct- marketed products, a commercial liability policy would be needed.

Some things to discuss with your agent would be where and how the animal is harvested. Some butchers use mobile slaughter units; when these are used, the animal should be harvested on your property or that of whom you sold the animal to after purchase. Another area that can cause confusion is the transportation and storage of the processed meat. With many custom processors having increased volume through their shops, they will not have the room to hold meat for extended periods of time.

It is vital, especially with new customers, that they understand just how much meat to expect and make sure they have the freezer room for it. The transportation of the meat from the butcher to their freezer should be done by the consumer, using clean coolers, and done in a timely manner so the meat doesn’t have time to start thawing. As you navigate these new marketing opportunities, it is important to consider areas that might include some risk and ensure your family is protected.  end mark

Carmen Willmore
  • Carmen Willmore

  • Extension Educator
  • University of Idaho Extension – Lincoln County
  • Email Carmen Willmore

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