Mike’s Blog – 10/22/17
StoneBridge Beef is having another good year. Sales are on par with the last two years and you, as valued customers, are the engine that makes the business run. In this blog I will try to outline the successes we are seeing and what we will consider to position ourselves for the future.
StoneBridge Beef is now an LLC. Lester Good is now officially a 40% owner of the business. In practice, his role as partner-successor is now even more pronounced. Lester owns and manages all the cattle as a separate business of his own. At age 76, my role in the business is still as an active manager, day-to- day communicator, planner, and distributor. However, it is evident that Lester could take over my duties and the business would continue on course.
Our growth is limited by our lack of qualified meat processors. Butchering infrastructure and meat cutters are suffering from advancing age. Local meat shops, their owners, and their employees tend to average in the 55 to 65 age range; much the same age as active farmers in Minnesota, which average about 59 years. And processors are overworked and overbooked. We are considering this problem as our number one concern.
Our cattle production system is highly efficient and could grow to meet the increasing demand for local grass-fed, grass-finished meat. BUT WITHOUT DEPENDABLE PROCESSING, EXPANSION IS TOO RISKY. We are working hard on both short-term and long-term solutions to this dilemma, and the details of our effort are too complex for this blog. This bottleneck is an inconvenience that restricts our size but not our ongoing success.
Meanwhile, our BRAND, our reputation and visibility are growing significantly through articles in magazines like SUCESSFUL FARMING, COUNTRY LIFE, and THE LAND. We have always been featured in local publications but now we are being displayed as a ‘business model’ for the local food movement. As an example, we are asked to provide 600 lbs. of beef (and a booth) for the Wise Traditions Conference, November 10-12. This is an international, 1000-person conference put on by the highly acclaimed Weston A. Price Foundation.
Big Ag, commodity beef companies like Cargill, JBS, Tyson Foods, etc. are taking notice of the collective success of local grass-fed beef companies like ours. Their response is to purchase or start their own intermediate size BRANDED BEEF, grass-fed operations. From the consumers’ standpoint there is concern here. Their product may be labeled “Product of the USA” but the animals are raised and slaughtered in a foreign country (in a USDA plant) and distributed by big box grocery retailers and restaurant chains in the US. Fully 75% of all grass-fed beef sold in the US market is now IMPORTED!
With your continued support we will stubbornly maintain our local, sustainable, Minnesota-based production model. We continue to be inspired by the personal relationships we have with you, the customers we know by name and location. Word-of-mouth is really the core of our direct marketing approach and we depend on your referrals.
We love being your farmer. --Mike Stine, owner/founder