Producer and Consumer Interest Is Growing

Angus grazing

​Many Tennessee producers are interested in operating small-scall livestock harvest and processing facilities to meet demand for locally grown beef. Photo courtesy UTIA.


Beef production is big in Tennessee, with more than 40,000 farms and some 1.9 million head of cattle in the state. However, most of the beef sold to consumers via retail outlets and restaurants in Tennessee is processed out of the state.

As the local food movement grows, cattle producers in Tennessee are responding to the demand. Rob Holland, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture, says an increasing number of producers are selling beef animals direct to consumers. This leads to a need for processing the beef quickly and efficiently.

It also leads to questions on the part of the producers. Holland is often called for help with livestock harvesting. “Many of producers have experienced challenges in finding facilities to perform harvesting, processing and packaging services,” he said. “Many think about starting their own facility. But while these services are critically needed, they can also be the most labor-intensive, costly and the least profitable.”

Holland says a range of factors need to be considered before opening small-scale livestock harvest and processing facilities. “Producers should consider the cost of the building as well as evidence of demand; availability of labor and equipment; their management and marketing expertise; and their understanding of food and meat regulations, zoning and permits.”  He also recommends a feasibility analysis and developing a business plan.

“A great deal of knowledge can be gained from reviewing information and studies conducted for other operations,” said Holland. “We always encourage folks to learn from the experiences of others.”

A UT Extension publication on this topic is available online for no cost at the Center for Profitable Agriculture website, Just click on the link to “Resources” and search for CPA information sheet #221. The center also has additional online resources available for those interested in adding or expanding a value-added enterprise to improve farm income.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a joint effort of University of Tennessee Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.


The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Rob Holland, director, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,

Hal Pepper, value-added financial analysis specialist, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,