Feeding tough meat to the dogs may not be as unprofitable as once thought

Staff report

HEBER SPRINGS, Arkansas: Sending too-tough grassfed beef, spent pastured hens and ewes, and blemished produce to the dogs may not be as unprofitable as you might think.

Ozark mountain grazier, Kendrick Ketchum, has developed a premium-priced dog food market in the Little Rock area that he thinks could solve problems for other graziers.

Ketchum who raises both grassfed beef and pastured poultry on 500 acres and who owns his own processing plant was recently approached by a wealthy Little Rock attorney who was an animal rights activist. She had read about the health benefits of pastured meat products and had a business proposition for him.

She wanted a custom-made, 30 percent grassfed raw meat and 70 percent fresh vegetable produce dog food made for an abused animal shelter in Little Rock. She said she was willing to pay the going retail rate for the meat and vegetables to get what she wanted and wanted beef, lamb and chicken versions.

Ketchum said she wanted the chicken ground up whole including the bones. This was mixed with ground up zucchini, okra, yellow squash and cucumber from his garden, minerals and kelp, shaped into patties and freeze-dried. He said this was an extremely easy product to make because it all went through the meat grinder.

The price Ketchum got for this concoction was three dollars a pound or roughly what he was getting for a grass finished beef carcass. Such creativity is a Ketchum trademark.

He is a founding member of US Grassfed Beef Federation and has been placed in charge of adding value to the lower end meat cuts of the carcass.

A major goal of the association has been to eliminate tough eating animals from the members' herds through ultra-sound testing and the use of tender-gene bulls. However until the dog food product, the only way to get rid of cattle identified as tough was to sell them at auction for whatever they would bring.

GIVE THE DOG A BONE

The other hot doggie product Ketchum cooked up - or rather smoked up - was smoked beef bones for dogs.

Using the large leg bones from his beeves and putting them in his plant's smoker, he has been able to get $5.00 a piece for the six-inch, bones which come complete with a red ribbon.

Smaller bones are packaged in a clear plastic bag and sold for 75 cents a pound in five pound packages. He said such bony creativity could add $100 or more to the gross of each grassfed steer.

"I think you can have a bigger impact on profits from adding value to the cheaper cuts than you can trying to sell the middle meats for ever-more exorbitant prices," he said.

He said the name of the game in meats today was convenience.

"Sell patties rather than globs of hamburger. Sell shish kabobs rather than chuck steaks. Sell hotdogs and sausage rather than roasts. The closer you can get the product to being in the consumer's mouth the more they will pay for it."

He said the only way most Americans knew how to cook beef today was on a grill. He said the naturally tougher cuts require more cooking finesse than a grill provided.

"Rather than trying to teach Americans how to cook meat slow and wet like the French, why don't we sell our tougher cuts pre-cooked French style so all they have to do is to heat it up in the microwave?"

Ketchum said he was currently working with grassfed beef and poultry customers from as far away as California on high-value products from the lower value cuts. He not only purchases grass-finished, 1000- to 1200-pound British-breed steers for his plant but can custom fabricate high value meat products for other direct marketers as well.

by The Stockman Grass Farmer


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