a time when the “eat local” movement is coming into its own, so might a
university database created to connect farmers, processors, food
retailers and consumers, which was on display at the recent American
Association of Meat Processors trade show in Cincinnati.
Say you are a chef in Chicago who wants to source Illinois
grass-fed beef. Or you are a meat processor in New York looking for Halal beef that was raised locally. You might be a
retailer looking for all the meat processors you could partner with in
Macon County, Georgia, or even a consumer wondering where to find all
the meat markets in Akron, Ohio. It’s all available on MarketMaker.
The site was created by a team of University of Illinois Extension
researchers in 2003 with the goal of providing access to markets for
Illinois farmers and livestock producers. Five years later, there are
10 states online and three more on the launch pad, all connected to a
single database that is so granular, it can locate ethnic population
density within a county, state or region.
In terms of meat demographics, the search possibilities include,
among others: certified humane care, organic, free-range, hormone-free,
kosher, GMO-feed free, halal, antibiotic-free, grass-fed, locally
raised, natural, source-verified and state- or federally inspected.
Products can be searched by processing options, such as: fresh, cured, frozen or smoked.
Processors, retailers and producers can join the database for free by filling out an online registration form.
“If they offer something unique or something they want people to
know about, there’s a place for that in their profile,” says Darlene
Knipe, marketing and business development specialist for the University
of Illinois Extension, who was demonstrating the system on the AAMP
trade show floor.
Iowa was the first state to join Illinois on the site in 2006.
Since then, states have been quick to join, and now also include:
Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and
New York. Soon to launch are: Colorado, South Carolina and Washington,
Beyond meat, the database includes sourcing for: dairy, fruits and nuts, herbs, grains, vegetables and specialty products.
Knipe says it would be nice to have all 50 states searchable
someday. But for now, “We definitely want to have the sates that
identify the major sources of the country’s food supply.”