RICHMOND—The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS) recently conducted a retail meat sales study to help farmers sell their processed meats in local markets.

The study examined three retail formats including farmers markets or roadside stands, on-farm stores and on-farm butcher shops as ways for small meat processors to sell products and identify required permits and regulations. It also provided information about logistics for operating in retail meat areas.  

 “All three models have the potential to be profitable,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “However, each model has its own unique opportunities and challenges, and all require access to qualified labor, a reliable and steady supply of meat or poultry, and a strong commitment to marketing.”

After more than two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, direct-to-consumer meat sales continue to grow. VA FAIRS stated that consumers continue to look beyond traditional grocery outlets and want to turn to local farmers to fill that void.

“The disruptions resulting from the pandemic have further increased consumer demand and interest for locally produced meats,” Banks said. 

“The study added that since meat processing requires a large amount of capital, so interested farmers in Virginia can partner with local government to apply for the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.” 

Banks added that grant funding can leverage the ability to construct new processing facilities, expand existing facilities or plan and establish retail facilities. 

VA FAIRS referred to Hidden Pines Meat Processing LLC, which received a $40,000 grant from Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in March 2022. The grant is expected to enable the company to improve its processing volume to over 1,100 locally raised beef cattle, goats, hogs and lambs each year.

 “The pandemic has presented many challenges to Virginia’s agricultural community. This is especially true of those livestock producers whose livelihoods rely on being able to process and sell their animals locally,” said Matthew Lohr, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry. “By making strategic investments like this to help grow the commonwealth’s meat processing capacity, we are creating important new market opportunities for our farmers, as well as local options for our consumers.”