Organic and Grass-fed Beef: Opportunities and Risks

Byron Leu, Field Specialist-Livestock, Southeast Area  

Byron Leu, Field Specialist-Livestock, Southeast Iowa

Problem Statement:

For the past several years, profit levels of beef cow operations have been positive - basically due to the combination of low feed prices and strong cattle prices.  However, the recent increase in grain prices and pasture rental rates have reduced the profit potential and narrowed margins.  Because of these factors, interest in producing grass-fed beef and/or converting the beef operation to an organic operation has grown dramatically.  The driving force is to produce a quality product that can be sold at a premium price - therefore increasing the profit potential of the final product.

Programmatic Response: 

Producer interest led two educational groups to explore conference/educational programs for southeast Iowa beef producers.  Louisa County Extension sponsored a conference with support from the Leopold Center in March 2007 to address grass-fed and organic systemslooking at both the positive and negative aspects of these management programs.  The Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) Sustainable Ag group also scheduled a similar event to identify and more fully understand these niche market programs.  LFS Leu presented at both of these events. 

Impact/Outcome:

Attendance at the Louisa County program was 27 and the IHCC event had nine participants.  Without question, these meetings were positive regarding the attendees interest, information shared, the positives/negatives that were addressed, and the marketing and management alternatives that were explored.  However, the most obvious positive was that these educational events provided the opportunity and environment to network and share ideas as well as resources.  At least five attendees indicated their interest in the development of organic and/or natural relationships in order to source and market these products.  Marsha Laux, value-added ag staff member from southeast Iowa, will serve as an AgMRC contact and will assist as requested to provide the necessary tools and market linkages.  Available resources and suggested business approaches have been shared.  In summary, these meeting settings have enhanced the potential to create partnerships/networks that will lead to entrepreneurship in the local marketplace.

April 12, 2007
140 Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: April 16, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu