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At three-thirty a.m. on Fridays, the alarm awakens me to load the beef truck for deliveries to Louisville. It’s quiet at that time of day — even on the farm. I arrive at the office and complete my mission before Jackie arrives at five to start deliveries. I return home to help get the children off to school, my wife out the door to work, and then, after feeding chores, I depart for work at the farm store.
“Why?” I often ask myself. Our vision statement answers succinctly: Green River Cattle Company (GRCC), which is owned and managed by farmers in central Kentucky, connects local beef producers with end users. This November marks seven years of research, production, marketing, testing, and learning for GRCC.
Although formally composed of seven farmer board members and two employees, GRCC has impacted the livelihoods of over thirty central Kentucky family farms. These “source farmers” provide farm-fresh calves to our “feeder farmers” for finishing, that is, for raising to slaughter weight. Green River Cattle Company oversees the enrollment and feeding of all cattle produced, ensuring both source and process verification. We purchase cattle at finish weight, oversee the slaughter firsthand, and distribute the beef cuts to local grocers, chefs, and consumers. In addition, we develop our beef into value-added products like beef patties, bratwursts, jerky, wieners, and summer sausage using small, locally owned Kentucky processors.
Each finished cut of beef includes a source code that identifies the animal and permits us to track the feeding and handling processes. Because our production practices prohibit the use of hormonal implants or antibiotics, trade relationships built on trust and communication must be developed and maintained. Such relationships take time, effort, and documentation.
A similar relationship exists between GRCC and our customers. A good example occurred this summer when a chef from a Lexington hotel scheduled a visit to view our production practices firsthand. He arrived with his wife and assistant chef and spent the day bouncing around the countryside visiting our small and scattered farms. For him to stake his relationship with his clients on our product, he needs to know us. For us to consistently provide this chef with tender and delicious beef, we must trust the farmers that provide our cattle.
I am currently finishing thirty-two head of cattle on our farm for the company. With these calves slated for a January slaughter, I won’t be enjoying Thanksgiving Day beef tenderloin from my own farm. However, I know the Green River Cattle Company tenderloin my family and I will eat that day will have come from the farm of Phil or Ed or Robert or Ken or Rob or Roger . . . and because I know, I trust.