May 14, 2020
by Samantha Albers
For 25 years, Craig and Denise Amos have provided butcher beef products direct to customers from their Indianola, Iowa, farm. Craig explains that similar to his family’s 128-year-old operation, Amos Hereford Farms, their butcher beef business relies on 80% repeat customers.
Typically, customers buy smaller amounts of beef products at one time.
“Freezer space is at a premium for a lot of things and a lot of people don’t have room for a big freezer,” Craig says. “By making our beef available year-round, people don’t have to worry about trying to stock up too far in advance.”
Those purchasing habits have shifted slightly even before the pandemic. Many families, who already understood the importance of buying ahead, are starting to buy more product at a time. Denise notes the biggest challenge so far is most meat lockers are booked up for several months. “It’s not quantity, it’s finding places to get them processed,” she says.
The Amoses have also noticed pandemic customers buying more at one time than what they had previously purchased, for example, customers who would buy a half beef are now buying a whole beef. “I don’t know whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate that our lists for halves and quarters are getting longer and longer,” Denise says. “It’s really amazing. We just can’t get them fat enough, fast enough.”
Craig adds no matter the circumstances customers want two things from their beef: “They want it to taste good and they want it tender,” he says. “Then you get into the sustainability issues. How are they raised? Are they hormone-free, steroid-free? What kind of person am I dealing with? Those issues come after taste and tenderness.”
Cattle from Amos Hereford Farms are consistently fed to a moderate 1,100- to 1,200-pound frame on a diet of ground-eared corn and natural proteins. Time from birth to harvest ranges between 12 to 15 months to maintain supply.
Moderate frame cattle finish quicker and are also well-suited for their local locker, who limits live weight to 1,400 pounds. Denise explains an essential aspect of any freezer beef business is a good relationship with the local processor. “The key to a lot of our success has been having that relationship,” she says.
Fat steers from Amos Hereford Farms are finished to 1,200 pounds before going to the locker.