Grazing cattle

Grass fed cattle graze at C&S Farms in Belleville, Kansas.

Ever since COVID-19 hit, some farmers are rising to public demand to sell beef directly from the farm to a buyer.

To start the process of finding farm-fresh beef, one Midwest producer recommends first identifying a farmer raising beef to finish. Some are doing grass finishing, others grain finishing.

“Some do quarters, half a beef, whole, and some do individual cuts like you may find in the grocery store,” said Kansas livestock producer Kurt Childs, who sells his Black Angus in beef bundles, individual cuts, quarters and halves. “Most people learn about us by word of mouth, Facebook or our website.”

Childs said a typical 18-month to 24-month-old steer would weigh 1,200-1,400 pounds. The hanging weight — the weight by which most quarters and halves’ prices are figured — are 700-850 pounds, Childs said.

The take-home meat depends on how cuts are split up.

“A typical quarter is around 125 pounds of take home, and 250 pounds for a half,” Childs said.

Childs — who runs his grass-fed beef for sale operation, C&S Farms, with his wife, Kelli Childs, and business partners Clay and Jaci Siemsen in Belleville, Kansas — said his beef is processed through local locker plants.

“We were able to secure some butcher dates early in the outbreak,” he added. “We booked dates for this fall and spring of 2021 because of increased demand.”

Some local beef processors are booked solid through the year. 

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“We also have a waiting list into 2022, and that’s not even taking into account any deer. It’s all cattle and hogs,” said Brad Dieckmann, owner of the Clay Center Locker Plant, Clay Center, Kansas.

Dieckmann is so busy that he built a second processing plant in Junction City, Kansas.

“We’re also constructing another slaughter floor and processing area onto our Clay Center facility, and a process product store (beef jerky, summer sausage, bratwurst) and retail store to open in October in Clay Center,” Dieckmann added.

The challenge for producers now is finding a processor who isn’t swamped.

“There’s a lot of demand out there, but no place to process local livestock, because everybody is so booked,” Dieckmann said. “During the whole coronavirus outbreak, farmers started dabbling in selling to the public. They usually just sold a few to people they knew, but they reached out on social media sites and found a big demand for their product to get a premium on their livestock.

“People are really interested in the product, and it overwhelmed the processors.”

Another farm family selling grass finished beef to the public thinks that’s a positive sign.

“We’re very pleased that local lockers are busy,” said Lori Carlgren, who runs Carlgren Farms alongside her husband, Ryan, in Courtland, Kansas. “That means they keep in business and everyone we deal with is family-owned, which we love about the whole process.”

The Carlgrens are licensed as a wholesaler for their livestock operation, selling individual cuts of beef, lamb and pork off the farm, or a quarter, half or whole.

“Another option to buy beef is directly contacting a processing plant,” said Carol Klema, executive director for Kansas Meat Processors Association. “Most have local livestock producers who regularly bring animals in for individuals.

“Anyone buying directly from a producer should get a guarantee of satisfaction or something to assure they’re receiving a quality product.”

Another bottleneck in the new push for farm-to-fork livestock has been people not having enough deep freezers.

There are, however, payment options for buyers seeking to direct-purchase their own beef. The farmer can sell either the whole animal when it’s still alive, or by hanging weight at the butcher, which is more typical.

“It depends on the farmer,” Childs said. “Most would take a check. Some can take credit card or other payments.”

The customer can choose to either have the farmer deliver the meat to them, or pick it up themselves at the processor and pay them.

Amy Hadachek can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.  

Amy Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in North Central Kansas. She's also a meteorologist and storm chaser. Amy can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.