After a report to the Inyo Supervisors revealed lukewarm interest in a plan to sell local beef and lamb in local markets, the question remaining is whats next?
Inyo/Mono Agricultural Commissioner George Milovich and Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio worked to get a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to look into the feasibility of a natural and local beef industry in the Eastern Sierra.
Consultant Jeff Schahczenski with a group called the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service returned to the Inyo Supervisors with his feasibility study. He told the board that there were a lot of ifs when we talk about feasibility.
On the supply side, Schahczenski said that after sending out 60 surveys to local ranchers and receiving ten back, there was some interest in a local facility to cut, wrap, and inspect meat for sale, but that his study ran into a brick wall when it came to prices. The ranchers that he surveyed wouldnt tell him how much they are paid per pound for the beef that they currently produce, so he couldnt do a thorough analysis as to whether or not local ranchers might make more money with a local beef plan.
Overall he said that he did not, see a lot of motivation to differentiate the product.
On the demand side, Schahzenski sent out 280 surveys to local restaurants and stores asking the retailers to rate the importance of local, or grass-fed beef. Of the 28 surveys he received back, he said that local, or grass-fed beef was low on the list for local retailers.
In the end, Schahzenski said that he did not see an overwhelming push, toward selling local livestock locally. Supervisor Linda Arcularius stated that this type of study is critical, to see what we can do locally to stimulate the economy.
What happens from here is yet to be seen.