Posted December 15, 2014
Purchasing Local Meat through Distributors
Unity College shifted a large portion of their meat purchases to local meat products in order to support local Maine farms and the college’s commitment to sustainability, as well as to promote increased transparency around food safety and origin. When compared to conventional meat products offered by some distributors, it was easier to trace the origin of the local products and understand what ingredients went into the final product. Lorey Duprey, Dining Director at Unity, and her team have helped to procure these local meat products and serve them throughout the academic year as a part of the menu rotation.
(PHOTO ABOVE) Unity College Dining Services Team Back Row (L-R): Roscoe Hicks (Storeroom Utility Clerk), Mike Hall (Production Manager) Front Row (L-R): Eileen Hamilton (Salad Prep Cook), Reece Hicks (Station Prep Cook), Darlene Vaughn (Station Prep Cook), Ellen Kenny (Production Manager), Lorey Duprey (Dining Director)
Name: Unity College
Foodservice Type: self-operated
Location: Unity, ME
# of Students: 573
Proximity to Farmland: less than 1/2-mile
Daily Meals: 720
Students on Meal Plan: apprx. 350
Unity College is a small liberal arts college in rural Maine that maintains a focus on environment and sustainability as a part of their ethos and academic experience, as well as their operations. These values influence and help to guide the decisions made by the college Dining Services team. In addition to an ongoing interest in supporting area farms and reducing their ecological footprint through the purchase of more local and sustainable food, there is also an awareness of health and food safety that can impact decisions about local food procurement. National concern in 2012 over the “pink slime” additive found in some of the ground beef that is sold in retail and institutional markets caused Unity to make a shift in their beef purchasing to ensure that they knew the ingredients and the origin of their ground beef and beef patties. In addition to this product change, the college also shifted to several additional local meat items including hot dogs and shaved steak. In order to procure these local meats, they worked with an existing secondary distributor, Dennis Paper, as well as added Maine Family Farms as an additional processor/distributor for some of the products.
The local meats are offered throughout the year to students as a part of the regular menu rotation at Unity, in items such as tacos, nachos, Shepherd’s pie, spaghetti, Philly steak pizza and subs, burgers, and hot dogs. Students are happy about the local menu offerings, although they have not been highly vocal in their demand for local foods in the Dining Hall. The decision to move towards more local purchasing in Dining Services is linked more to support from top-level administration and the college-wide commitment to sustainability than to current student activism and advocacy for local foods.
STRUCTURE & PRICING
LOCAL MEAT MENU, VOLUME & SPENDING
LOCAL MEAT PRODUCTS & PRICING
It is often difficult to understand what all of the ingredients are in conventional products, including meat products. Conventional ground beef often contains filler ingredients like grains and soy, whereas the local meat procured by Unity comes from local farms and processors who do not add filler ingredients to their beef products.
The local meat purchases, as a whole, did cost more for the college when compared to the conventional products that were being purchased, but it was determined that there was room for this in the budget and it was supported by the college as a whole.
Labeling of products as local is not consistent from distributor to distributor in their ordering systems or on the packaging that comes with the products when they are delivered. This limits some opportunity to support and purchase local, as well as market it effectively when it is delivered. Additional identifiers such as grass-fed or organic for beef products are also not often offered via ordering systems. Unity has found that some distributors do mark their packaging with words such as “qualified grown local” and have a code in the ordering system that allows you to look up items from local growers, while others do not provide any of this information.
Unity also holds special events during the year, including a Hunters & Huggers dinner featuring Maine lobsters and venison, as well as a Local Burger Lunch meal featuring local meat, condiments and more!