Meet your Meat

By Mark Wilhelms

One of the many reasons we launched Red Meat Market is to help smaller ranches and local farms compete with the giant “Big Meat” players in the American beef market.

And when we say giant, We’re not exaggerating.

Only four companies –Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., National Beef Packing Co., Tyson Foods Inc. and JBS of Brazil—account for about 80 percent of all the beef produced in the United States. JBS, which is the world’s largest meat producer, accounts for about 24 percent.

That’s a lot of power concentrated in just a few hands and that makes it tough for ranchers up and down the beef food chain to stand on their own. In fact, between 1980 and 2009, when the pace of consolidation picked up so much momentum, the per pound price a rancher could get for their beef fell 53 percent to just 93 cents, when adjusted for inflation.

With the recent drought, Beef prices have edged up, but you get the idea. Big Meat makes all the Big Money.

With so few competitors in the marketplace, ranchers and farmers have limited chances to negotiate higher rates for their animals. You can imagine the pressure on those small operators who choose a different path. . .who prefer to raise high-quality, grass-fed, organic beef using traditional methods now largely ignored by the giant agribusinesses.

Trevor Williams and Bill Bradshaw
Take Farmer, lawyer and entrepreneur William “Bill” Bradshaw of Bradshaw Farms, WI has teamed up with fellow businessman, musician and farmer Trefor Williams of Milwaukee to produce grass-fed and Amish raised lamb for the local market. Bill has been working with WI Amish communities for 25 years growing organically raised produce for the national market, concentrating his production in south central Wisconsin close to his grandparents’ farm in Horicon, and where his love of farming began. Trefor Williams, a seventh generation farmer originally from Wales in the UK where he raised Welsh Mountain Sheep on his farm, has, over the years produced thousands of sweet tasting grass fed lambs favored by the high end restaurants of Europe.

Bill and Trefor have now teamed up with a new Amish community in northwestern Wisconsin to raise grass-fed lamb for the Wisconsin and Minnesota markets. The Amish chose their new community’s location not only for it’s natural beauty, but also for it’s exceptionally rich, high-mineral soil. The rich soil has yielded results beyond expectations, and is the most nutritious grassland they have ever experienced. Trefor said, “Our lamb will be completely free of all chemical and grain additives, raised for market purely on the natural grass resources of the rich land on our farms. Grazing freely, our lamb will taste sweet, having very little fat and so avoiding the strong mutton taste found so often in grain-fed sheep.”

The new farming enterprise will raise Katahdin sheep – a naturally leaner, healthier and better tasting breed of lamb. The American developed Katahdin, a cross between the African St Croix and the British Wiltshire Longhorn, are more ecologically sound compared to other breeds – better adapted to WI weather, eating a wider range of vegetation with a higher grass to meat conversion ratio. Having worked with the Amish for over 25 years Bill said, “I have no doubt that between their commitment to care of the land and good husbandry of these outstanding animals that our lamb will soon be enjoyed by a new generation of Americans who favor food that is honestly produced and presented in an appetizing and nutritious way.”

The first lamb will be available in November.

When you buy local meat from Red Meat Market, you’re doing more than purchasing delicious, high quality meats from local producers. You’re supporting the true spirit of American entrepreneurship . . .the farmers and ranchers who commit their time, money and energy to raising animals the right way. You’re buying it from guys like Trefor and Bill.

You’re also telling the “Big Meat” boys they can keep their mass-produced, antibiotic ridden, hormone-saturated, factory-farmed, Feed-lot Meat! We have a better solution for the population, the land and the animals.

Mark Wilhelms is the Founder of Red Meat Market. You can find Mark on and Twitter