VALUE ADDED MEAT PROCESSING PROGRAM
IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA
Managed by San Xavier Cooperative Association (SXCA), San Xavier Cooperative Farm (SXCF) is owned and operated by Native American farmers and ranchers in Tohono O’odham.
Local and regional ranchers face several challenges trying to butcher, process, store, and market their livestock and poultry. With few certified meet packing facilities operating in the area, local ranchers have to either take their livestock and travel long distances, or sell the animals at local auctions, where the prices are usually very low.
This VAPG planning grant funds will be used to study the feasibility of developing a community meat processing program to i) increase local meat production, marketing, distribution, and consumption; ii) promote value-added processing and local food vertical integration; iii) create new market for both ranchers and wheat/alfalfa growers (for animal feed); iv) improve food security; (v) promote food safety; and vi) stimulate economic development and community self-reliance through jobs and businesses creation.
Local food systems promote environmental sustainability, economic viability for farmers/rancher, and socially just food security for all. In contrast, the current U.S. food system typically produces food for long storage and transportation times, using vertically integrated processes of production and distribution, large commodity farms, heavy reliance on pesticides and other chemicals, with limited consumer knowledge of production methods or food origins.
SXCF proposes to develop a value-added meat production and processing program in Southern Arizona, where the livestock raise by local rancher can be butchered and processed into packaged meat or other valued-added products. Locally raised and processed meat can then be sold to local institutions, food stores,and gourmet restaurants, where customers are willing to pay a premium for the wholesomeness of the products.
The economic, environmental, and social benefits of a well-developed local food system are:
In 2011, Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center analyzed the agricultural economy in Southern Arizona, covering Cochise County, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Santa Cruz Counties, and found that consumers in the region spend $3.3 billion buying food each year. Most of this food (~$3 billion) is sourced outside the region. At least $2 million of food products (about 0.1% of farm cash receipts and 0.06% of the region’s consumer market) are sold by farmers directly to consumers.
In our current U.S. food system, food travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to the consumer. Transporting food adds processing, shipping, and packaging costs, which increases the cost to consumers without contributing to the value of farm sales. Transporting food increases fuel consumption, waste, and pollution. In a local food system, food is marketed directly to consumers by producers or with few intermediaries, which reduces the distance between producer and customer, thus reducing associated costs.
Communities are using local food systems to develop new traditions, teach new skills, and create a sense of community. The opportunity to build new relationships among stakeholders in local food system projects is a benefit of community-based food systems.
Promoting local food market reflects and addresses many important issues especially in low-income communities. It not only adds value to the commodities produced by individual producers but also benefits the entire community.