OLDFIELD, Mo. – As meat becomes more expensive at the grocery store, some farmers are actually making less money. This is forcing them to make adjustments.
For example, the Gilbert family went from selling at a slaughterhouse to selling from their farm. Gilbert Cattle Company was formed around ten years ago.
“Ever since then, we’ve worked on trying to achieve optimum genetics that are going to perform well here in the Ozark mountains,” Lauren Gilbert said. “We’re looking for rugged cattle that are going to withstand these rocky conditions.”
It had no problems making money until the pandemic began.
“At the beginning of it, we saw slaughterhouses booked out a year or two in advance,” Gilbert said. “Trying to find those dates to get cattle there and to get them processed has been a huge challenge.”
Gilbert says in April of 2020 farmers saw live animal prices drop by up to 40%.
“This is happening while consumers are seeing prices of meat and beef rise in the grocery store,” Gilbert said. “This has left both producers and consumers in the same boat. Consumers are paying way more for the product, while producers are getting paid way less. In the beef industry, producers are price-takers, not price-makers. We’re expected to get what we get and not throw a fit about it. But, enough is enough.”
Her family made adjustments quickly and has now been selling beef from their business for about a year.
“You’re having to sell whole, halves and quarters of beef just due to regulation and monitoring of the sales,” Gilbert said.
The price of beef sold from a farm depends on how much the hanging carcass weighs. A pound normally costs around $2.75 to $3.
“It’s definitely following the trends and making sure that consumers are getting a fair price,” Gilbert said. “Especially on that price discovery of what’s going on in the industry.”
Gilbert says it’s been a sustainable method.
“We’ve not only been able to seek a more equal profit for all of our hard work that goes into producing this animal. But, we’ve also seen a positive response from our consumers,” Gilbert said. “They like that they’re buying a product directly off of a farm, and we’ve been able to make friendships. This trend is going to continue not only for my family’s operation but for many family operations like mine. We need to see real structural changes in our industry that ensures everyone in all aspects of our industry has the opportunity to be successful and seek profits.”