You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only. As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.

To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at

Newsletter Archive index:

Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Pasture-fed Beef Markets the Focus of a New Research and Education Program

Farm Business Management Update, August/September 2006

By Denise Mainville (, Assistant Professor, Agricultural Marketing, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Research and extension faculty at Virginia Tech’s Agricultural and Applied Economics Department have recently initiated a research and education program on pasture-fed beef markets in Virginia. The research is made possible through a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), USDA. Project leaders are Denise Mainville and Gordon Groover, both of whom are specialists in Virginia Cooperative Extension and faculty members in Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Pasture-fed beef is a livestock production system that has been receiving considerable attention in the press recently, with feature articles in prominent publications such as the New York Times and Time magazine. While consumers are clamoring for the health benefits that pasture-fed beef provides, such as Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLA's), producers look to it as a means to diversify away from commodity beef production and gain access to growing markets. In fact, previous research has shown that pasture-fed beef is a niche market that has the potential to contribute to the ecological sustainability of farming; the economic well-being of farmers; the economic vitality of rural communities; and regional economic growth.

The current research will address some of the informational needs that must be resolved if the true potential of pasture-fed beef markets is to be developed. Specifically, the project will address four research needs: 1) the identification and description of the economic properties of different pasture-fed beef systems; 2) an analysis of the pasture-fed beef marketing chain as it currently exists in Virginia; 3) an analysis of the potential for diverse retailers and restaurants to participate in the pasture-fed beef market and the identification of requirements for producers to market to these outlets; and 4) an analysis of consumers’ demand for pasture-fed beef, focusing on ethnic consumer markets which are of growing importance in much of Virginia and the D.C. area. The research findings will be disseminated through an educational program offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension, as well as in industry, extension, and professional publications.

Work on the pasture-fed beef market research project is already underway. Ashleigh Waddle, an undergraduate double-major in Animal and Poultry Science and Dairy Science at Virginia Tech is working under the supervision of Dr. Mainville to implement a survey of pasture-fed beef producers in Virginia. The results of this survey will permit an analysis of the production and marketing systems that are currently in place, and provide a better understanding of the marketing chain. Meanwhile, Drs. Groover and Mainville, Ms. Waddle, and several Virginia Cooperative Extension agents have initiated case studies of several pasture-fed beef farms. These case studies will provide a basis for the farm-level analysis of pasture-fed beef systems. In the coming year, taste tests of pasture-fed beef produced under different production systems will be used to provide insight into different consumers’ demand for pasture-fed beef.

If you are interested in knowing more about the project, please feel free to contact Denise Mainville at (540) 231-5774 or

Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension