I'm sure every profession has its share of frustrating circumstances. One of the more frustrating aspects of selling meat directly to our customers is the fact that we have to rely on others to process our product. Thanks to federal rules, we have to have our beef, lamb and goat processed at a USDA-inspected facility if we want to sell individual cuts of meat to our farmers' market customers. We currently work with two processors - one in Dixon and one in Reno. Both are great to work with - they've both gone out of their way to help us be successful.
Occasionally, however, this relationship hits a bump. Sometimes we get our product back with the wrong label or the wrong price. Sometimes we're missing specific cuts of meat. Today, we're unable to pick up a load of meat because our processor is short-handed and overwhelmed with work. I know our processors are frustrated at times by the challenges of working with small scale producers like us, too.
I'm not sure what the answer is. I certainly have neither the time nor the expertise to butcher our own meat. While I'm committed to selling our product locally, I sometimes wonder whether our lives would be easier if we simply sold our live lambs to a processor and focused our energy on product rather than meat sales and marketing. Ultimately, I believe that we are most successful (economically and otherwise) when we market what we raise to our community. I just wish our community was more self-sufficient in terms of processing.