TOP STORY, Jan. 17, 2017
So. Md. sees boom in sales for local meats
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
BRANDYWINE, Md. — Demand for locally raised meat and poultry is growing quickly across Southern Maryland, and a program created to capitalize on the trend is seeing boosted sales as a result, a regional agricultural official said last week.
Meat marketed through the Southern Maryland Meats program, sold in display cases at stores across the region, has risen from $17,393 in sales in fiscal year 2012 to about $201,413 in fiscal year 2016, according to data distributed to farmers at the Southern Maryland Hay & Pasture Conference on Jan. 11.
The demand comes from a growing number of consumers in search of locally sourced food and concerned about livestock issues including animal welfare, antibiotic use and other raising practices, said Susan McQuilkin, marketing executive at the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, which oversees the program.
McQuilkin said she’s seen much of the growth over the last five or six years.
The program was created in 2011.
Southern Maryland Meats “was also created in direct response to consumer demand,” she said. “They are picky about how their meats are grown, where they’re grown and who’s doing it.”
At present, 48 producers from Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties participate in the program, McQuilkin said, though the commission hopes to push membership to at least 50 this year.
Meat from participating producers is required to be free of additives or byproducts, they must be humanely raised and raising practices must be transparent and labeled.
Meat must also be ready to purchase in a variety of cuts.
“We ask that farms clearly state their raising practices so there’s no shades of gray,” McQuilkin said. Consumers “are very wary of broad statements.”
The free program is open to producers of beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry and eggs, and farmers must be from one of Southern Maryland’s counties.
Members are also able to rent one of the program’s three freezer trailers for $85 a day.
Use of those trailers has also grown over the last five years.
About 21,000 pounds were hauled in fiscal year 2011 with a total value of about $113,000, data show.
In fiscal year 2016, 68,760 pounds were hauled with a total value of about $396,000.
The Southern Maryland Agricultural Commission was created in 2000 in response to the state government’s tobacco buyout program, which ended most of the state’s tobacco production.
The commission has been charged with creating a new face for the agricultural industry in Southern Maryland through support, research, education, grants and marketing and promotion.