ATTRAnews - Newsletter of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

December 2010
Volume 18, Number 5

Newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service: A project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). This issue of ATTRAnews is available online.

Marketing Livestock Products

Beef cattle graze in olive orchards at Chaffin Family Orchards
in Oroville, Calif.
Beef cattle graze in olive orchards at Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, Calif.
Photo by Rex Dufour, NCAT.

Many farmers and ranchers are exploring ways to reach new customers. Sometimes it can make sense to add meat, eggs, or dairy products to an operation. This issue of ATTRAnews looks at some ideas for marketing these products.

In this issue:


Meat CSAs and Buying Clubs

Nick McCann, NCAT Agriculture Marketing Specialist

In any farm business, it’s important to have multiple marketing outlets in order to minimize risk and maintain a stable income. For an increasing number of livestock producers, a meat community-supported agriculture program (CSA) or buying club has become a viable addition to commodity markets or the sale barn. A meat CSA/buying club sells whole, half, or quarter carcasses to a group of individuals in order to:

  1. Minimize the time it takes to sell meat in volume.
  2. Sell directly to minimize consumer costs.
  3. Sell the whole animal, not just the high-end cuts.

How can I start and manage a meat CSA/ buying club?
Look to church communities or your own social network where people are already organized and familiar with each other to develop your meat CSA/buying club customer base. Customers are often asked to pay for their CSA/buying club share up front. However, when the upfront cost is too high, it is possible to market smaller portions of the carcass.

When does marketing smaller cuts become too time intensive to both raise and market animals? This cut-off point will be different for every business but needs to be considered carefully.

How do I get my animals butchered and wrapped?
The local meat locker is often a good place to find out about getting your animals butchered and wrapped. Depending on your area, you may have federally inspected, state-inspected, or custom-exempt butchering plants nearby. There are three main types of facilities:

  • Federally Inspected Plant - You may resell your meat to consumers and enter into interstate commerce.
  • State-Inspected Plant— - You may resell meat to consumers, but not across state lines.
  • Custom-Exempt Plant - You may deliver meat to your customers, but for legal reasons your customers must pay the custom plant directly for slaughter and cutting services. So you must sell the animal on the hoof and the buyer must pay the processor for butchering, cutting, and wrapping.

Where can I find other resources about meat CSAs or buying clubs?

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Livestock and Orchards Go Well Together

By Rex Dufour, NCAT Agriculture Specialist

The Chaffins’ goats help rehabilitate a neighbor’s olive
The Chaffins’ goats help rehabilitate a neighbor’s olive orchard. The animals clear brambles and the unwanted shoots that sprout at the base of the trees. The guard dog stays with the herd.
Photo by Rex Dufour, NCAT.

In the northeastern part of California is Chaffin Family Orchards, an innovative organic farm that combines fruit production with livestock production, to the benefit of both enterprises. Recently the family started a winter meat CSA for their customers.

Over the season, subscribers receive 65 pounds of meat (broiler chickens, stewing hens, goat meat, and beef) as well as at least 10 dozen eggs and various organ meats and bones. The cost is $350. The Chaffins emphasize the benefit of receiving weekly deliveries of these products. This means that subscribers don’t need a full-size freezer, as they would if they bought a half or a quarter of an animal. Deliveries begin the first week in December and continue through April.

Interesting points about the Chaffin operation

  • The family owns 2,000 acres.
  • Six hundred of those acres are in orchards of citrus, olive, figs, apricots, avocados, cherries, nectarines, and peaches
  • They graze cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens (layers and broilers) in the orchards.
  • They farm with a combination of biodynamic, organic, and natural practices.
  • They use 85 percent less fuel than they did 10 years ago.
  • They don’t pay a dime for nitrogen because the animals fertilize the fi elds. As an added benefit, the disease problems in their orchards have decreased.
  • They’ve documented an increase in the quality of their fruit as a result of integrating livestock in their orchards.
  • They’ve cut labor costs as well.
  • Heritage breeds are often calmer, and have good pasture-feed conversion ability.
  • They emphasize that producers need to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the breeds and species they choose for their operations.

What’s needed to get started

  • Portable electric fencing, some winter shelter and portable water trailers
  • Good pasture mixes as well as supplemental feed (especially with chickens) and mineral supplements
  • Good breeding stock
  • Guard animals, such as the mixed-breed dogs the Chaffins use

Animal Roles in the Chaffin Orchards

  • Laying hens improve soil nitrogen and provide bug control. The layers are kept mostly in the olive orchard, which has enough room between rows for the mobile hen houses.
  • Broiler hens provide soil benefi ts as well as a very popular product. The Chaffins raise Cornish Crosses, moving them to fresh pasture once or twice a day so the birds have fresh forage and a good supply of insects.
  • Goats can be used to clear vegetation along irrigation canals and rights of way. The Chaffins have found they need to move the herd through an orchard quickly because if the goats get bored, they’ll jump the fence and climb the trees or start shredding bark.
  • Sheep and cows are useful for grazing in the orchard, but producers must be careful when the animals are grazing around young trees that can get broken or bent.
  • Cattle work well in olives, but can cause problems with some fruit orchards. The herd is fi nished on range pasture.
  • Sheep graze well in citrus, cherry, apricot, nectarine, avocado, and peach orchards.

To learn more about Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, California, see their website.

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Organic Certification Reimbursements Are Now Available


The USDA National Organic Program administers a cost-share program for certified organic producers and handlers. Recognizing the cost of organic regulations, Congress created the program to alleviate the financial burden of certification for those participating in the organic market.

This is a great opportunity for organic operators to offset the cost of certification. If you are a certified producer or handler, you may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of your costs for organic certification, such as inspection and user fees.

You may receive one reimbursement per year for a new or a renewal certification, provided that the annual maximum reimbursement does not exceed $750 per certificate.

Funds are available
It’s important to note that the program is not competitive. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized $22 million for the program through 2012. It is estimated that funds will be available through the fall of that year. The Federal Crop Insurance Act also makes additional monies available to the 12 northeastern states, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. This year, $6 million is available to certified organic producers and handlers in all U.S. states and territories.

For the past two years, only 75 percent of the annual budgets were spent, which means that many certified operators did not apply for their reimbursement. In fact, less than half of all certifi ed producers and handlers submitted applications. The USDA wants to increase participation rates during 2011 and 2012, and it has recently hired additional staff and is doing more to get the word out about the program.

Wondering how to apply?
It’s easy. First, contact your state’s Department of Agriculture (or its equivalent) for an application. Contact names for each state are available online.

Some states have application forms available for download, and these links are also available on the USDA website. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call your certifier or your state Department of Agriculture to get an application.

Second, assemble your supporting documentation. You will need to demonstrate proof of your certification and the expenses you have already paid. Save your invoices, statements and receipts, which may be required as proof of payment.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your package is complete. The following documents are typically requested by state Departments of Agriculture. But make sure to review your state’s requirements carefully.

  • Proof of USDA organic certification (a copy of your certificate)
  • Itemized invoice showing your expenses paid for certification
  • W-9 tax form

Most certification-related expenses are eligible for reimbursement. However, keep in mind that items such as late fees, expenses due to noncompliance, and inspections for certifi cations other than USDA Organic are not eligible.

Still have questions? Contact Betsy Rakola, USDA National Organic Program cost-share manager, by calling 202-720-3252 or e-mailing You can also visit the cost-share website.

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ATTRA Publications about Marketing Livestock Products

ATTRA publications.

The following publications can be downloaded from the ATTRA website. Call 800-346-9140 for a free print copy.

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Resources for Marketing Livestock Products offers nationwide direct sales of local grassfed meat, eggs, and dairy.

North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association

Farmstead Creamery Advisor: The Complete Guide
to Building and Running a Small, Farm-based Cheese Business. By Gianaclis Caldwell, 2010, Chelsea Green Publishing. Written by a farmstead cheesemaker, this practical book addresses all the issues she needed help with when she was beginning. is a helpful website for producers with questions about all kinds of dairy products.

University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability has solid information for that state and elsewhere.

Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network answers a wide range of questions about production and marketing.

provides a detailed list of organizations useful to small-scale egg producers.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has a poultry programs website.

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center offers many resources for marketing eggs.

American Egg Board maintains a website with links to all aspects of commercial egg production. 1460 Renaissance Drive Park Ridge, IL 60068 847-296-7043

Kansas State University publishes Packing Eggs on the Farm for Direct Sales.

Direct Marketing Lamb Management Guide
and Marketing Grassfed Beef are informative publications from the Kansas Rural Center, 785-873-3431

Niche Meat Processing Assistance Network is an excellent resource for farmers, ranchers, consumers, and mid-size processors. is a national online resource for sheep and goat marketing.

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New and Updated ATTRA Publications

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ATTRAnews is the bi-monthly newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. The newsletter is distributed free throughout the United States to farmers, ranchers, Cooperative Extension agents, educators, and others interested in sustainable agriculture. ATTRA is funded through the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service and is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a private, non-profit organization that since 1976 has helped people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.

Teresa Maurer, Project Manager
Karen Van Epen, Editor
Mary Ann Thom, e-newsletter production

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Comments? Questions? E-mail the ATTRAnews editor Karen Van Epen at

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