New board chair Caroline Smith agrees. “Alleghany Meats has a bright future. The recent survey of customers has shown us that people are happy with our quality – we have a staff who are working well as a team to ensure quality of packaging and custom cuts that match the expectations of the end users,” she said.
This year, Alleghany Meats will add a smoker room that allows it to do more value added processing and offer new products for markets outside of Highland County.
“Marketing has always been an area where we’ve needed help and we were so happy to learn last fall of the award of the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program grant, Marketing Meat from the Alleghany Highlands,” Smith said. “That grant provides funding over a two-year period to help build on current agricultural infrastructure in Highland – Alleghany Meats, a USDA-inspected slaughter facility and the Highland Center’s two commercial kitchens — to enhance marketing opportunities for local livestock producers.”
Through this grant, a marketing committee will expand the reach of Alleghany Meat products to include surrounding towns and urban centers within a 200-mile radius of Highland, with high consumer demand. That work will include:
• Assisting livestock farmers in the region to effectively promote their products;
• Expanding operations of Alleghany Meats by increasing the number of farmers that are processing and marketing products;
• Building collaboration between regional farmers and create a roadmap for aggregating and distributing local meat products;
• Developing a regional brand for local meat producers; and
• Promoting entrepreneurial ventures using local meat through technical assistance.
From October 2015 to March 2016, the focus has been on creating foundational marketing materials, doing background research, training, and assessing customers.
An Alleghany Meats Marketing Committee has been established with members including Jon Donaldson, Betty Mitchell, Caroline Smith, Scott Smith, Michael Sponaugle, John Vermillion, and Matthew Sponaugle. Staff leadership for the project is provided by Troy Snead, Alleghany Meats office manager, and Thea Klein- Mayer, Highland Center Local Foods Coordinator.
Klein-Mayer describes the work envisioned for the next six months, April- September. “We will focus on building relationships with retail, restaurant, and distribution outlets outside of Highland, and simultaneously creating opportunities for farmer collaboration to meet new demands, and work on collective marketing efforts,” she explained. “Overall, this project has the potential to grow Highland’s, and our entire region’s, reputation as a source of quality agricultural products, which is really exciting.”
As new markets are being developed, lead meat cutter Dale McCusker said, “Techniques and types of cuts change over time. Roasts, which take a long time to cook, don’t make for a quick meal. Today’s families like cuts that cook quickly. And, we have customers who are working with restaurant clients and are always glad to create the specialty cuts those chefs want.
Alleghany Meat’s staff is looking forward to hosting a meat-cutting class from Virginia Tech, which come for a plant tour today, April 14. They will see the entire process to handle bison, from delivery to slaughter and processing.
To learn more about the services offered by Alleghany Meats, visit the website: www.alleghanymeats.com, or call (540) 474-2422.
And, there is always room for help on the marketing committee. Those interested in helping make connections outside Highland should email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in The Recorder on April 14, 2016