LEXINGTON, Ky. — A hamburger’s carbon footprint can stretch halfway across the country and back. But hamburgers produced through the Kentucky Hamburger Alliance Project leave a much smaller environmental imprint.
The Kentucky Hamburger Alliance Project, newly developed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, is a vehicle used to provide consumers with locally-produced premium meat and Kentucky farmers with a solution to one of the problems of direct sales — finding a market for all parts of the animal.
University of Kentucky Dining Services is the project’s first customer, having contracted for 3,000 pounds of hamburger patties per month.
Bob Perry, coordinator and consulting chef of University of Kentucky Food Systems Initiative, is the author of the white paper that inspired the project.
As long as farmers are finishing cattle with an all natural protocol, meaning no hormones and no antibiotics, the alliance can be an option for them in the direct sales arena.
Lee Meyer, University of Kentucky agricultural economist and extension specialist for sustainable agriculture, worked with Perry and Meat Science Extension Specialist Gregg Rentfrow to assemble the nuts and bolts of the project.
Meyer said one of the biggest problems with direct sales of beef is selling all cuts of meat on an animal.
There is great demand for the high value middle meats — steaks and premium cuts.
The end meats — chuck from the shoulder and round cuts from the hip — are lower value cuts. It’s difficult for a producer to sell those cuts at a profit.
The alliance will allow producers to sell those lower value cuts at a break-even price, with the idea that they can ultimately make a profit by selling the entire carcass.
The alliance fits with the homegrown quality touted by Kentucky Proud, the ‘buy local’ initiative of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Normally, a hamburger can log more than 1,500 miles from farm to plate, stopping along the way at the feedlot, processor and grocery or restaurant.
Each step on that long route burns fossil fuels. Even more fuel is consumed to produce feed for those cattle and process the meat.
It can be a costly business to put a ‘cheap’ hamburger on a consumer’s plate — costly in terms of dollars and the environment.
At present, Green River Cattle Company is providing all the beef for the project, but the potential is there for the Kentucky Hamburger Alliance to attract beef producers from across the state.
For more information on joining the Kentucky Hamburger Alliance, contact the local extension office or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.