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Kentucky farmers focus on quality meats for local customers as prices surge at grocery stores

Stoney Creek Farm near Horse Cave, Kentucky raises cattle, hogs and egg-laying hens.
Stoney Creek Farm
Stoney Creek Farm near Horse Cave, Kentucky raises cattle, hogs and egg-laying hens.

As inflation pushes up the cost of meat at the grocery store, some Kentucky farmers are keeping their local customers by focusing on quality beef, pork and other protein products.

Linda Lewis said prices on beef and pork from her Stoney Creek Farm near Horse Cave have been pretty much the same for several years. Her local customers buy directly from the farm and at the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green on Saturday year-round.

Lewis said higher costs have recently forced her to increase the price of eggs.

“I think most of our customers are just really committed to buying local food," said Lewis. "And sustainably raised food compared to more of a production type of food, like what would be in a feed lot or an egg-laying farm or something like that.”

At River Cottage Farm in Rockfield, Debbie Apple said prices have been mostly the same for quite a while, except for a dramatic increase in one service.

“Our butchering prices went up about 47%," Apple said. "That was the only thing that caused us to go up.”

Apple sells beef, pork, chicken, lamb and eggs from the farm and at farmers markets in Bowling Green and Franklin, Tennessee, on Saturday.

Products from the farm are delivered at drop-off sites in Nashville on Wednesday.

 River Cottage Farm in Allen County raises sheep, chickens, cows, hogs and bees.
River Cottage Farm
River Cottage Farm in Allen County raises sheep, chickens, cows, hogs and bees.

Nationally, therising cost of food is attributed to inflation and increased costs of labor and fuel. Some consumer advocates suggest that beef and chicken producers are also fattening up their profits.

Apple said farmers base their prices on their costs and she doesn't see local farmers trying to lower prices to compete with grocery stores.

“You can trust the price of food at the farmers market because it’ not manipulated as a commodity and it’s not manipulated by supply and demand,” she said.

Apple said her customers tripled during the COVID pandemic because of the intense focus on health.

She added that increased the demand for a trustworthy source of meat raised without antibiotics or growth hormones by local farmers. Apple said she's seen the focus on healthy food before.

“When I first started raising grass-fed beef 30 years ago, for 10 years 100% of my customers were sick," said Apple. "They all had cancer, lupus, Lyme disease. These people were trying to heal themselves.”

Apple said there are programs to help low-income people buy high-quality, locally- produced food.

For example, she went with a customer from her farm to the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green so the customer could turn $10 into $20 through the Kentucky Double Dollars program.

Those double dollars can be used with WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers, and SNAP/EBT benefits.

Copyright 2022 WKU Public Radio. To see more, visit WKU Public Radio.

Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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