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Published March 03, 2012, 10:28 PM

Study: SD consumers will pay more for local beef

Buyers more concerned about the quality of their meat than the higher price tag.

By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic

Consumers in South Dakota are willing to pay more for locally produced ground beef, according to a recent study from South Dakota State University.

Kuo-Liang Chang, an associate professor at SDSU who headed the study, found people are more health-conscious than expected.

“The extra money spent is for producers to control the quality of fat content,” Chang said. “People joke about the Midwest not caring about health, but people are willing to pay for better controlled fat content.”

Another finding is that most South Dakotans who purchase locally produced ground beef don’t care if it’s organic. They mostly care about the quality — they don’t care whether the cattle were grass-fed or free range, Chang said.

He said South Dakotans’ willingness to pay more for local beef could help programs like Angus Certified and South Dakota Certified. Chang found a trusted brand label gives consumers more confidence in what they’re buying.

However, if consumers in the state have a choice, they’d rather buy ground beef produced under a South Dakota label than a brand like Omaha Steaks.

Chang said there’s little difference in preference between South Dakota branded and neighborhood-produced ground beef.

Meat lockers in Mitchell find many customers are willing to pay more for locally produced ground beef, because it offers good quality taste.

Rick Lenger worked as a butcher at Coborn’s Grocery Store for 10 years prior to owning Mitchell Locker.

“Today, money talks,” he said. “It’s hard to say if people are willing to pay more for quality ground beef, but I have customers who keep coming back.”

Mitchell Locker charges $4.09 a pound for regular ground beef.

Ground beef at County Fair Food Store costs between $3.49 and $4.49 per pound. At Coborn’s Superstore, ground beef costs between $2.99 and $4.39 per pound.

Shorty Hofer, owner of Shorty’s Locker in Mitchell, said he never has problems pushing ground beef out the door. He often goes through 50 pounds at a time, he said.

Hofer charges between $3.55 and $4 for ground beef.

He said locally produced ground beef draws customers to his store because they can see the quality and where the meat is ground.

Although it can be hard to compete with other stores, Hofer said the quality is what draws his customers back.

“Farmers work hard to raise quality beef,” he said. “We have all locally raised beef, but some does come from the truck. It’s not the same quality, but we can’t always keep enough beef in stock.”