The next time you stroll through Kroger’s meat department looking for a pound of ground beef, you can buy local.
The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, partnered with The Chop Shop in Wolfe County and Creation Gardens of Louisville to produce an all-Kentucky hamburger that is now available in 85 Kroger stores across the state.
The product, which is 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat, is made from cattle raised in Kentucky, which is the largest beef state east of the Mississippi River with more than 1 million beef cows. Most of the cattle raised in Kentucky are usually sold and shipped out of state to large feedlots and processors, who then ship the meat back here for sale.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Tuesday that this new product will keep the entire cycle in state.
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The idea isn’t new; the Kentucky beef industry has been working on this for 18 years. But it required special certifications to meet the food safety standards of major retailers.
Dave Maples, executive vice president of the KCA, said that the state’s beef producers had no trouble selling premium products like steaks, but the hamburger end of the market was tougher to compete in.
So the producers began researching the best ways to package and label the products; the final version is available as a one-pound square for $4.99 and as a two-pound set of four pre-made patties for $9.99. Both packages do away with the conventional styrofoam tray. The price sets the Kentucky-labeled beef squarely in the middle between store ground beef and more expensive premium products.
That’s intentional to give consumers the value of a locally sourced product at a fair price, producers said.
The hope is that demand will take off and the state can expand production, Quarles said. Right now, the KCA subsidiary Beef Solutions is producing about 3,000 pounds of ground beef a month from slaughtered cattle purchased from Kentucky farmers.
As demand increases, the purchases are expected to give the farmers another market, Maples said.
Quarles said that his department also is working to sell Kentucky beef into China, which has been open to U.S. beef for almost a year. Kentucky, he said, is one of the few states that could meet Chinese demands for detailed information on sourcing.