Eating Local Food is Pricey, But Farmers Say the Money Stays Local

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MID-MISSOURI - Many restaurants and farmers in mid-Missouri say there has been a recent push toward using local food.  This push is called "community supported agriculture," and supporters say it means healthier food that can be trusted.

"I believe that the consumers today want to where their foods come from, they want to know that they are feeding their families something that's safe, and healthy," said Susie Mahnken, part owner of Missouri Legacy Beef. "They want to know that they are supporting family farms."

Missouri Legacy Beef is a beef label that comes from Mahnken Family Farms in Salisbury. The farm sells beef to places all over Missouri, including more than 30 places in mid-Missouri.

Mahnken said raising grass fed cows to sell isn't the way the farm has always been selling it's beef.

"Back in the 60s and 70s there was a push away from that kind of a feeding to more of a confinement feeding and a lot of the beef industry went that direction and we did, too, for a while," Mahnken said. "And, then in the early years of this millennium, about 2006 we started feeding all naturally with no hormones, no antibiotics, and in 2008 we sold our first beef here in Columbia, and we realized that we were going back to the way his [my husband's] grandfather had fed cattle so many years ago, over 100 years ago."

This natural process of raising cattle can cost more. Mahnken said the price of cattle is based off the fluctuating prices of feeds and fuels, like hay.

Beks, a restaurant in Fulton, began using local food with Legacy Beef as its first local item. Garry Vaught, the owner of Beks, said more people and more restaurants are leaning toward fresher foods.

"Availability of any product is going to change what our pricing is," Vaught said. "We try to maintain that same price and just ride it out. Sometimes you may not make as much on that product for two or three weeks, but maybe the next week it will kind of just even it out."

Higher prices on menus and in grocery stores that sell local food may look inconvenient to a consumer, but farmers said the end result is more important than a higher price.

"The money goes back into your own community," Vaught said. "It's not being dispersed throughout the whole nation. It's nice to see money going within your own proximity."

"In the long run, I think it costs less because the impact on health and on society as a whole and on the environment because local food is raised sustain-ably, so in the long run it's actually a more affordable way to eat," Mahnken said.