Many consumers are looking for meat that's a cut above the pre-packaged offerings in the supermarket, and the University of Missouri is helping southwest Missouri producers to connect with those potential customers.

"There's more consumer interest in purchasing locally produced meat in addition to the more obvious things like fruits, vegetables and eggs. That is why University Outreach and Extension is organizing workshops to help producers with direct marketing of meat," said Anastasia Becker, outreach coordinator, Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program.

Direct marketing of meat offers opportunities and challenges that conventional producers rarely encounter. For example, the growing Latino population in southwest Missouri provides a ready market for goat meat. But, producers also need to find a suitable meat processing plant.

Scott Bradley of Ozark, MO, attended two of the University Outreach and Extension workshops on direct marketing of meat held last year. He took what he learned at those workshops back to his 393-acre cattle farm and developed Bradley's Better Beef, www.realbeef.com.

"Our niche is that you can taste the difference in our meat because it is all natural, antibiotic and hormone-free beef. Consumers today are very health conscious," said Bradley.

Bradley's Better Beef is developing a regular clientele in the area stores that carry it.

"As a family farmer, I am involved with all the aspects of our farm. Farming is not an 8 to 5 job, it is part of who we are. The result for the consumer is quality beef from a family they know," said Bradley.

The first of the three free workshops in 2003 was held July 1. The second workshop in the series will be 7-9 p.m., July 24 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Marshfield, MO, and the third workshop will be 7-9 p.m., Sept. 18 at the Conway Community Center on South Spruce Street in Conway, MO.

The workshops are geared toward producers who are interested in finding out more about how to get into the business of direct marketing meat, or deciding whether they even want to.

"It is easier to invest a few evenings to attend these workshops and see if this is something you want to do than to plunge in and decide it is a mistake for you," said Becker.

For program details, or to register for the free workshops, call Becker at 417-466-4225.

University of Missouri Outreach and Extension improves people's lives with education and research from the four campuses of the University of Missouri System and Lincoln University that focuses on high-priority needs of people throughout the state. Each county Extension center, with oversight by locally elected and appointed citizens, is your local link to these unbiased resources.

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