LOUISVILLE — Nathan Lawson farms just over 900 acres near Wakefield, Kentucky, in Spencer and northern Nelson counties, where he raises corn and soybeans in addition to a herd of 137 cow-calf and stocker beef cattle.
Some of those beef cattle are part of a new collaboration between the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association (KCA) and Kroger, which is selling a Kentucky Proud ground beef product sourced entirely from KCA producers. Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef is an 80 percent lean beef that comes in 1-pound packages or 2-pound packs of four half-pound hamburger patties.
“It’s an exciting time to be a cattleman in the state of Kentucky,” Lawson told a crowd assembled March 20 at the Eastgate Kroger store in Middletown, when the product was introduced. “We’re here this afternoon because of the culmination of over 17 years’ worth of hard work and collaboration between the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and Kroger.
“I’m a member of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, and they’ve always had an interest in local beef,” Lawson said in an interview prior to the Middletown event. “As the largest beef cattle-producing state east of the Mississippi River, we need an opportunity to market our beef on the local level. We have a history of cattle leaving our state [and being ‘finished’ in feed lots in the Midwest]. Beef Solutions gives us a way to do that.”
Beef Solutions LLC, the KCA-owned corporate entity behind Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef, provides a pathway between Kentucky cattlemen and consumers.
“They coordinate the processing and link the product to local Kroger stores,” Lawson said. “Eventually, all Kentucky cattlemen will have the opportunity to sell cattle to Beef Solutions. We hope it will be a major economic program.”
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles told the crowd in Middletown, a Louisville suburb, that he believes the product will be a success.
“Kentuckians like to vote with their taste buds,” he said. “We can not only grow ’em [cattle], breed ’em, and feed ’em, but we can finish ’em here as well because the local food movement is real.
“We’re dealing with consumers, particularly right here in Louisville, who are becoming more conscientious about where their food comes from. So when we can say it came locally, it’s a win-win because that’s what consumers want. Hopefully, it may open the door for bigger opportunities for Kentucky’s beef cattle farmers down the road.”
Beef Solutions’ Gold Standard program ensures the cattle that it processes are raised in the most humane way possible.
“The cattle count on us, and we count on them,” Lawson said. “The welfare of our families is directly tied to the welfare of our cattle.”
Both Nathan and his wife, Wanda, were raised by farm families. Wanda is a part-time engineer and full-time mom to the couple’s four children.
In 2005, after attending the University of Kentucky (at the same time as Commissioner Quarles), Nathan started a partnership with his dad, Murrell Lawson, a teacher and part-time farmer.
“We transitioned away from tobacco, thanks to trickle-down [funding] from the Master Settlement Fund, by growing our cow herd,” Nathan said.
“In the Bluegrass, beef is certainly a big deal,” he told the crowd at the Eastgate Kroger. “With more than 38,000 [KCA] cattlemen producing beef on a day-to-day basis, beef is an important part of our economic engine and provides for many families across the state a stable source of income.
“When you buy great-tasting products like Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef, you can know that your food dollar is going to support a family like my own,” Nathan added. “Next time you purchase ground beef, choose Kentucky and buy Kentucky Cattlemen’s Ground Beef. You won’t be disappointed.”
— Chris Aldridge, Kentucky Agricultural News, Kentucky Department of Agriculture
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