Harvest NY Beef Seminar Cuts to the Chase
by R.J. Anderson
Raising 20 to 30 pigs and four beef cattle a year, Jefferson County’s Mike Hubbard has become a trusted beef and pork source for his hyperlocal clientele. Looking to one day grow his operation and possibly add a meat-cutting component, this spring Hubbard traveled to Cobleskill, New York to attend the Beef Cutting Seminar co-hosted by SUNY Cobleskill and the Harvest New York regional agriculture program.
Organized by Harvest New York, a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) team targeting economic development and sustainability that recently expanded into the northern part of the state, the sold-out one-day seminar attracted 15 beef producers from seven counties interested in learning about cuts of meat, consumer preferences, pricing strategies and marketing tactics.
Arriving with more questions than experience, Hubbard appreciated the opportunity to tap into the research and expertise of Cornell University, SUNY and beef industry experts. “That seminar was the first of its kind that I had seen offered,” says Hubbard. “It was perfect for a small producer like myself because it went over so many facets from cutting to pricing to marketing. I have a better plan for how I want to grow and can feel I can speak more effectively to my existing customers about the various cuts of beef.”
Prompted by growing consumer interest in the production and availability of locally sourced meat and meat products, Harvest New York Livestock Processing & Marketing Specialist MacKenzie Waro says the beef cutting seminar was the first step in a partnership that will host classes for other meat producers, including lamb, pork, goat and charcuterie.
“The collaboration between Harvest NY and SUNY Cobleskill is a natural fit,” says Waro. “SUNY Cobleskill has the facilities to help Harvest NY meet its educational goals for meat processing education, while Harvest NY has the ability to grow the meat industry in the state. We are looking forward to a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.”
Kicking off the inaugural seminar, the attendees began their morning with a meat marketing class led by Waro, followed by a primer on the New York beef industry conducted by Carol Gillis, executive director of the New York Beef Council. The morning session wrapped with a section on meat safety, which included a cuts tutorial, taught by SUNY Cobleskill Meat Lab manager Betsy Jensen.
The afternoon portion began with a meat pricing lecture taught by Matt LeRoux, marketing specialist with CCE of Tompkins County. Ending the day was a hands-on meat cutting session at Cobleskill’s state-of-the-art facility hosted by SUNY Cobleskill visiting instructor Michael Lapi.
“The people that presented all really knew what they were talking about,” says Hubbard. “How they present information about the cuts and seeing the meat lab in action was impressive. And it was eye-opening to learn about the various marketing tactics and steps I would have to take if I wanted to put my name on my packaging.”
In addition, Hubbard said what he learned from LeRoux helped reshape his marketing focus as he looks to expand. “I’m not usually a huge fan of classroom sessions, so I appreciated that he got right down to the nuts and bolts about the returns from different markets,” says Hubbard. “For example, I learned that with my type of operation and my busy schedule, I probably don’t have time for farmer’s markets and that in my case it’s probably a better idea to let my customers come to me.
“Really, all of the presentations were great,” Hubbard continues. “I recommend the seminar highly. I got a ton out of it.”
Following up on the success of the beef cutting workshop, Harvest New York and SUNY Cobleskill invited pork producers to hone their skills in a one-day Pork Cutting Seminar on Wednesday, August 24. Designed for producers selling to markets, looking to cut their own meats and those interested in learning details about specific cuts of pork, the course covered which cuts are most profitable, quality of meat, what products consumers want, and marketing strategies.
Next up will be a one-day seminar focused on poultry cutting and marketing, held October 11, at SUNY Cobleskill. That will be followed by a lamb cutting workshop at the same facility on Jan. 18 of next year and expanded beef and pork seminars from March 20 -24.
To learn more about Harvest NY meat processing opportunities for small producers, contact MacKenzie Waro at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view a lineup of upcoming Harvest NY seminars at events, go to harvestny.cce.cornell.edu.
R.J. Anderson is a staff writer/communications specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension.