Mid-Atlantic hospitals, schools and colleges are ready to purchase grass-fed beef

Blended burger recipe creation by Beverly Hospital in Northeast Massachusetts

A recent survey among hospitals, schools, colleges, and other institutions found that there is a significant interest and opportunity to expand the market for locally raised, grass-fed beef in the Mid-Atlantic region – especially for ground beef and blended burgers.

Health Care Without Harm and the Piedmont Environmental Council collaborated on a study to assess institutional interest in grass-fed beef and the potential volume and consistency that could be produced by Virginia based farmers. The survey was distributed to hospitals, schools, colleges, and universities in Virginia and parts of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The greatest opportunity for market expansion is with ground beef because it is purchased in significant volumes by institutions. Working with a processor on a blended burger product is a promising option being considered. A blended burger combines mushrooms (or other plant-based ingredients) with ground meat to reduce the total meat in the burger while improving its flavor. This strategy is used to help institutions transition from the beef they currently purchase to a local and sustainable option while mitigating prices.

The survey asked about food service operations and food purchasing priorities. When asked to rank the primary barriers to purchasing regionally, sustainably raised beef, 93% of the respondents identified price as the most significant barrier. “Contracts with primary vendors” and “volume of products available” tied as the second most significant barrier. Follow up calls uncovered information about a handful of Virginia-based colleges and universities who are working with a local processor on a blended burger project using locally raised, grass-fed beef.

Pending funding, Piedmont Environmental Council and Health Care Without Harm will support a “Grass-fed beef peer-to-peer cohort group” for institutional food service professionals to learn more about the environmental and health benefits of grass-fed beef. The cohort will meet with farmers based in Virginia who are implementing these practices and benefit from other educational opportunities. The cohort is planned to begin in November 2019 and run through March 2020. If you are working for a health care, college, or university food service provider based in Virginia and would like more information about this opportunity, please contact Kristen Markley.

Learn more about blended burgers