Photo: stu_spivack (Flickr)
Dollars And Cents
The project for the day at Fischer Farms is to plant rye grass for the cows to eat. The harsh winter decimated the grass at the farm near Jasper, Indiana. Owner/farmer Dave Fischer needs to get the seed planted before the upcoming rain storm.
Fischer Farms has been a family operation since 1868. The 750-acres in southern Indiana is home to 900 animals — cows, hogs and chickens.
Looking at his budget, it’s not fuel or feed that tops his expenses list. It’s the animals themselves. Here’s how it breaks down:
- He buys a young female cow, called a bred heifer, for $1,400.
- Fischer feeds the heifer for a year, at which point its first calf is born.
- The calf spends 18 months on the farm, growing to 1,400 pounds. It is then sent to the processing facility.
This means Fischer waits three years to see the return on his investment.
Once his animals have reached their finished weight, Fischer drives them the ten miles to Sander Processing.
“Processing” is a sanitized term for slaughtering farm animals and preparing the cuts of meat for sale.
The two businesses have had a close relationship since Sander Processing opened its new facility in 2003 — which happened to be the year before Fischer Farms started selling directly to restaurants.
“We’ve really grown up together,” says Fischer. “As they’ve expanded and added more people, we were able to grow with them.”
We felt like we had really good quality meat, and we just didn’t feel like we were getting the premium for that.
Before Fischer sold his products directly to area chefs, he went through large corporations like Tyson.
A key detail of working with Tyson is this: the company buys Fischer’s animals, not the meat. The live animals. From the farmer’s point of view, that means once he loads the animals on the truck, he never worries about them again. Tyson sends him a check for the cow.
However, the payment Fischer received did not reflect the consistent, high-quality products he believed he was producing.
The animals on Fischer Farms are raised without hormones or antibiotics, and they eat grass. ”We felt like we had really good quality meat, and we just didn’t feel like we were getting the premium for that,” he says.
That’s why working with Sander Processing is better for Fischer’s bottom line.
“With using Sandor Processing, I’m able to retain ownership of the meat and then sell it to the restaurants, sell it to whoever I want,” he says.
But getting restaurants to buy his meat wasn’t easy. Click here to find out what it took for Fischer Farms’ products to make it onto local menus.