Grass Fed Beef, A Way to Preserve Open Space in California

The Issue

A large part of California's open space and wildlife habitat is provided by ranchers, whose yearly return on their investment ranges from 3% down to minus 4%. In addition to this economic squeeze, increasing urban encroachment is limiting the sustainability of these open spaces. Marketing grass-fattened beef directly to the consumer could provide both a higher return to ranchers and a product that has many health advantages for consumers.

What Has ANR Done?

In 1996, Farm Advisor Glenn Nader, Sutter-Yuba-Butte counties, and Specialist Steve Blank, UC Davis, teamed up with researchers Dave Daley and Annette Levi of California State University, Chico, under a UC Sustainable Agriculture grant to research the feasibility and logistics of grass-fed beef operations in California. The culmination of this work was a 77-page publication including four cost studies, a sample business plan, consumer surveys and legal requirements. After the first 200 copies were quickly taken, the decision was made to publish the information on the UC Sustainable Ag website.

Farm Advisor Stephanie Larson then organized producers in Marin County to focus on working together to produce grass-fed beef.

Placer-Nevada Farm Advisor Roger Ingram and USDA Resource Conservation and Development Area Specialist Dan Macon started a study of niche marketing of beef for six counties in Northern California. They joined with the UC Center For Cooperatives to organize a highly successful two-day course, "Niche Marketing of Meat", attended by 105 people. The information has also been distributed in other educational meetings and on the Web.

The Payoff

Forty ranchers start producing grass-fed beef

UCCE has led the development of California's grass-fed beef industry by organizing key information and presenting it to audiences that can use it. The project has assisted more than 40 California ranchers in starting a new business to increase their incomes, thus bettering their chances of staying in business and not having to sell their land to developers.

Clientele Testimonial

Clientele testimony from Niche Marketing of Meat Conference evaluations:
"I am going to direct-market my product. I never thought I would entertain the ideas I now have."
"I learned what other producers are doing with their niche market compared to mine."


Supporting Unit: Sutter-Yuba, Placer-Nevada, Marin-Sonoma CE offices, Ag Econ UCD, Center for Cooperatives

Glenn Nader, UCCE Sutter/Yuba/Butte Counties,142-A Garden Hwy, Yuba City, CA 95991
Phone (530) 822-7515