Hamburger Alliance Promotes Local Food, Helps Small Farmers
Bob Perry, above, of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, had an idea in 2006. He knew small farmers in the state weren't having difficulty selling their steaks, but it was harder for them to market other cuts of meat. And so was born Perry's idea for the Kentucky Hamburger Alliance Project.
"Small farmers don't have enough quantity to go into larger markets with their extra cuts," Perry explains. "But if they go in together with their 'trim,' we can produce enough hamburger to supply a small chain or a university. And the small farmer gets to keep their own steak business, which is where the money is in beef cattle."
Working with the Green River Cattle Company, which markets only antibiotic- and hormone-free beef under its name, Perry arranged for Green River's trim to be delivered to a USDA meat plant near the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. Above, Green River promotes its product near Louisville. Below, a farm family who supplies Green River feeds their cattle the old-fashioned way.
For the last two years the university has been buying the Green River meat, and the Kentucky Hamburger Alliance Project officially launched this October, when the school contracted for 3,000 pounds of hamburger a month. They may eventually take up to 15,000 pounds a month during the school year, and in the summer—grilling season—smaller grocery chains and farmer's markets can pick up the slack for the Alliance.
"Agricultural development is economic development when it's done the right way," Perry says. "This project lowers our carbon footprint, helps our rural economy by putting money in the farmer's pocket instead of into agribusiness, and gives consumers a locally-produced, high-quality, totally traceable product."
Bob Perry photo courtesy of University of Kentucky. Green River and farm photos by Kara Keeton, courtesy of Green River Cattle Company