Farmers Adapting to Consumer Meat Demand

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With the growing popularity of protein-packed diets, farmers across Tennessee say the demand for meat is on the rise, and that trend is expected to continue.

Animals and animal products accounted for nearly 40 percent of Tennessee agricultural sales in 2017, generating $1.4 billion.

"We have seen a change in what people want on their table," Elaine Dustin of Belfair Farm in Wayne County said. "Several consumers are following the Keto diet, which includes meats that are trimmed with a small amount of fat and meat that is well marbled -- making grain-finished meats a consumer favorite."

"Many families in our community have told us that it means a lot to them to know where their meat comes from and how the animal was cared for during its lifetime," Micayla Giffin of Giffin Farms in Obion County said.

Farmers are noticing that beef in particular is seeing an increase in demand. "As people become more and more aware of the health benefits of beef, we are constantly asked about providing new and nutritious cuts," said Matt Niswander, nurse practitioner and owner of Niswander farms in Lawrence County.

"A three-ounce serving of beef--about the size of an iPhone--provides more than ten essential nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and B6," Valerie Bass, Executive Director of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, said. "One serving of beef contains about half of your daily value for protein in an average of 170 calories."

With Easter around the corner, several producers are already selling out of farm fresh meats. "Grass fed leg of lamb makes a wonderful Easter dinner that also supports local farms," Jess Wilson of Summer Fields in Grundy County said.

If you have never used locally-grown food in your kitchen, don't worry. "It's almost impossible to make bad food from excellent ingredients," Tracy Smith of Three Forks Cattle Company in Fentress County said. So, if you are interested in bringing fresh local flavor to your table this spring, now is the time to act.

Go to www.PickTNProducts.org or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a local meat producer or farmers market near you. Follow "PickTNProducts" on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipes, products, and activities.

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