Grassland Beef is a company in Missouri that provides “premium quality, health-enhancing beef products” that meet their customers' needs. The beef is all grass-fed and the company strives to help improve family nutrition, rural communities and the environment.
The cattle are raised in their natural environment and graze on “lush, green pasture forage” in order to guarantee the benefits of consuming “nutritious, health-enhancing” beef.
Grassland Beef was started before it became a business. In 1993 – 1994, four seminars were held with the idea of Grassland Beef in mind. The core people who started Grassland Beef came out of a database of producers specializing in grass beef production. In 1997 they were able to have their first success with the animals that they produced. They did the same thing again in 1998 and then again in 1999. When the results were as successful as the first two, they sent everything to Iowa State University and Illinois University and came to find the numbers were high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA are thought to be high in antioxidants and anti-cancer properties and have been attributed to hindering the growth of tumors in mammary, skin and colon tissues.
Some studies of CLA in human diets show that it tends to reduce body fat, particularly abdominal fat and it helps to improve serum lipid profiles.
In 2000, it was “full steam ahead” when they launched the website and finally, in September of 2001, Grassland Beef legally became a company.
When asked about some of the challenges of Grassland Beef, John Wood, part of Grassland Beef, said that there was a “whole list of challenges.” Some of the bigger challenges are finding the customer, losing two members who helped form the company and dealing with a very complicated business.
One of the biggest challenges John finds in this business is quality control. There are many different areas of quality control that need to be followed such as product distribution, slaughtering the animals correctly, and portion control on the website-just to name a few. Each one of these and more need to be followed and along with other things that are a part of the business, it can be a challenge but is something Grassland Beef makes sure is followed.
John is very proud of Grassland Beef’s customer service. John says that when it comes to customer service they are quick to respond to emails, questions from customers and phone calls. John notes that customer service is very important and Grassland Beef strives to make sure that they are always doing the best they can when it comes to customer service.
Another success of Grassland Beef is getting out to trade shows and traveling to get their name out there. John says they travel to as many trade shows as they can, meeting people and letting people know about their firm and the benefits of grassland beef and CLA.
John is quick to point out that he isn’t big on setting goals; he just keeps “pushing the ball up the hill.” Having said that, he does say that there are a few things they would like to improve on. Keeping the supply chain secure, finding more customers, ensuring quantity of the supply and also, one of the biggest goals they have is to decrease the time between orders. John says that by doing this it makes the customers happier and this could also bring in potential clients as well.
John says that their basic goal is remembering that they can’t predict the future and that it’s wide open-anything can happen. They just keep their cool and make sure things are done properly.
How They Utilized the VAPG
Grassland Beef received a VAPG. John said that the grant has been very useful and has helped Grassland Beef to set up a state-of-the-art inventory control spread sheet. The program was done by a Fortune 500 company and was able to help Grassland Beef uncover some problems. When there are many ways to lose money, a program that helps save money is worth the investment.
About USDA VAPG
VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in the coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.
Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations, may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value-added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies). (http://www.rd.usda.gov/)