Kansas lawmakers and university researchers have their eyes on the state’s meat and milk production

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TOPEKA — New research from Kansas State University shows interest in buying Kansas-raised beef from farms has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

the survey of 198 consumers and 66 beef producers takes a closer look at the dynamics of beef marketing to help farmers capitalize on strong consumer interest in locally produced foods. According to the results, 61% of responding beef producers said their business-to-consumer marketing had increased in 2020 and 2021.

Gregg Ibendahl, a farm management economist with K-State Research, said the margin between the price of beef at the grocery store and the price producers get for live animals has widened significantly in recent years.

“The producers think there has to be a way to get some of that margin back for myself,” Ibendahl said. “By selling direct to consumers they can, but in doing so they will have to take on many of the roles that packers and retailers play. But there is potential for more profitability for producers through direct marketing.

Travis O’Quinn, meat specialist in KSU’s Department of Animal Science and Industry, said consumers are interested in buying local produce.

The Kansas Legislature was also interested in making it easy for consumers to buy meat this session. A 113-0 State House-approved bill would force plant-based meat companies to change their labels to ensure consumers aren’t accidentally buying fake meat instead of real meat.

Restaurants would be exempt from the requirements. The bill was amended in conference committee to make it easier for these plant-based meat companies to meet the new requirements.

“We need to protect the brand of ranching families in Kansas,” said Rep. Tatum Lee, Ness City Republican and fifth-generation producer. “Vote yes on SB 261 to label fake meat vs. real beef. Save Kansas ranchers and rural Kansas towns.

K-State meat scientists found that consumers prefer the taste of meat to that of imitation products. The Kansas Beef Council funded this research.

The Senate did not vote on the conference committee’s compromise before adjourning until April 25.

Lawmakers also approved a bill to allow raw milk to be sold on the farm with a label identifying the product as unpasteurized. Senate Bill 346 would leave the secretary of the Department of Agriculture responsible for assessing health threats to the milk supply.

The measure continues an effort to reform laws on the sale of dairy products since a judge in 2019 overturned a 50-year ban on advertising raw milk beyond the farm where the products were sold.

The House approved the bill 119 to 3, with senators agreeing to amendments 27 through 12. An effort by a handful of senators to send the bill to a conference committee failed.

“This bill is good for producers, consumers, and even animals that have a veterinary inspection certificate,” said Sen. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain.

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