By NABC Project Manager, Jeff Voltz
With funding support from the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program NABC was able to provide technical assistance to the North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative, which legally formed as a Washington State cooperative corporation in July 2011. This growing group of Whatcom and Skagit meat producers (now with 12 family farm members) has agreed upon common production standards and to market a co-op branded label. The co-op’s new brand is North Cascades Meats, A Farmers Cooperative.
This hard working group of farmers is passionate about providing sound and caring animal husbandry and progressive environmental stewardship. This passion and care is well represented in the cooperative’s standards.
The co-op members worked with the skilled marketing and design firm Studiothink to develop a presentation and scheduled meetings to share the co-ops marketing plan with three potential market partners in mid-December. The primary focus on these presentations was on pastured raised and finished beef. These market partners included Community Food Co-op and Fiamma Burger, two Bellingham-based businesses with a strong history of supporting local food producers, and Western Washington University Dining Services-Aramark.
Since these meetings Community Food Co-op has provided product movement and is working closely with NABC to help further refine sales and volume projections for the co-op’s marketing plan. And three of the producers are working with Fiamma Burger to test different cuts of products for meet its formulas and quality requirements. The co-op is in the process of scheduling more presentations with local restaurants and institutions.
Based on achieving a viable level of commitment from market partners the co-op will complete its marketing and business plans, seek more members and begin a capital drive, engage with the Puget Sound Meat Producers Cooperative to lease its USDA mobile slaughter unit and bring it to Whatcom County six days per month, and build a processing facility to process beef, pork, and lamb.