(KMAland) – Thirteen cattle ranchers in Iowa are receiving US Department of Agriculture grants to keep meat and cash closer to home.
The dollars are part of a program designed to strengthen and protect the small cattle breeders of the consolidation.
Currently, four companies account for about 85% of the beef purchased and processed in the United States. The subsidies are intended to curb consolidation, reduce farmers’ and consumers’ reliance on these mega-producers, and help people who run smaller beef operations.
Margaret Chamas, livestock sustainability manager for Practical Farmers of Iowa, said having a processor nearby means more of the meat stays closer to home, at local grocery stores and restaurants.
“Instead of sending this animal to an auction. This animal could go to Chicago, it could go to New York, who knows? It will end up somewhere else, on someone else’s plate,” said Shamas. “And all the value of the meat, whoever does the processing along the way and the added added value of that, they’re going to keep that money.”
The government said the grants are also designed to modernise, upgrade and in some cases expand, small livestock production sites and options for livestock keepers.
Chamas noted that having a processor nearby gives it the ability to have the meat it produces cut – into ground beef, sirloin or chuck roast, for example – while giving local people access to another state resources.
“But when we have a situation like the Midwest, especially Iowa, where there’s such rich soil, and where we can grow really high-quality beef, it’s nice to be able to try to keep it all in the family, to keep it in the neighborhood,” Chamas said. “Animals are raised here, processed here, then eaten here, and the money stays in the local system.”
Data from the Department of Agriculture showed that the majority of feedlots nationwide have less than 1,000 head cattle, but the biggest raise most of the country’s beef.