- Pennsylvania grocer Karns Foods began selling its own line of locally produced beef this week that it developed in partnership with area farmers and agricultural professionals, according to a news release from the company.
- The chain’s new “PA Preferred” Angus beef line aims to account for a majority of the chain’s beef assortment, and marks the first time a grocer in the state has been certified under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture program.
- The new line was developed in part because of the supply chain disruptions that have been rattling grocers, said Scott Karns, owner and CEO of Karns Foods.
In an interview earlier this year, Karns said he and his leadership team had been contemplating starting their own beef line for several years, but that supply chain constraints spurred by the pandemic pushed them to “get this done.”
The line will account for around two thirds of the company’s total beef assortment, Karns said, and that could increase depending on consumer acceptance and as Karns adds farms to the operation. Currently, the grocer is working with 19 family farms across six Pennsylvania counties, with around 75 steer per location, according to the news release.
The PA Preferred certification, which was started by the state’s Department of Agriculture in 2004, seeks to recognize agricultural products that are grown and processed in the state.
In addition to having a reliable beef supply the grocer helps oversee, Karns said his company wanted to bring its fresh meat selection, which is a main draw at all of its stores, in line with growing demand for locally sourced products. Many of the farms Karns is working with are former dairy operations that have struggled to make money in recent years.
Karns, which has 10 stores, also recently began sourcing its pork supply from an in-state producer after years spent relying on a Midwest supplier, Karns said.
Karns noted he’s confident the new line will sell well in stores, given the company’s robust demand for fresh meat. The hardest part of establishing the program has been the amount of work and complexity involved. In addition to recruiting and meeting with local farmers, Karns Foods had to hire a veterinarian and herd managers to help oversee the operation. It also hired a nutritionist to help ensure the beef supply meets the USDA Choice classification.
But the process has been rewarding overall, Karns said.
“I can go out and visit the herds, which is something I’ve never been able to do in my 40 years in the supermarket business,” he said.