Check Back to Learn About Future Women in Meat Workshops!

Join us for what the New York Times, NPR, and National Farm Credit have recognized as one of the nation’s leading events for women in the meat industry and as one of “the top leadership programs changing rural communities and agriculture for the better."

What is Women Working in the Meat Business?  

NC Choices’ Women Working in the Meat Business brings together women farmers, processors, and professionals from across the country who raise, butcher, prepare, and/or market pasture raised meat. In a focused, hands-on setting, women convene in North Carolina for over two days of training, from on-farm management to butchery, by the nation’s top professionals. Courses are designed to help women tackle real and perceived barriers in their career by offering educational, technical, and business planning assistance while also providing opportunities to build and expand professional networks.

This year, we’re doubling the size of the conference to better accommodate the growing demand. With training that spans from live animal handling led by NCSU’s Amazing Grazing, to hands-on butchery led by 3rd generation Master Butcher, Kari Underly, to in depth whole animal pricing and business know-how; NC Choices’ Women Working in the Meat Business makes for a not-so-typical “classroom” workshop.

NC Choices, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, promotes sustainable food systems through the advancement of the local, niche and pasture-based meat supply chain in North Carolina. NC Choices provides information, technical assistance, educational programming and networking opportunities for farmers, extension agents, meat processors, buyers, distributors and consumers. 

What People Had to Say

This conference has radically improved my ability to speak to both customers and producers
[Because of the WWMB seminar] I plan to implement inventory spreadsheets, more detailed information to work on w/ key accountant. Also additional information for the retail meat shop and soon to be butcher shop-2015!
I have worked closely with NC Choices over the years and was a participant in the Women Working in the Meat Business 2 day Intensive Workshop... The workshop taught me how I could bring the art of meat cutting and wonderful products into and out of my Appalachian community. By teaching how to extract high value cuts from the animal, I was made me closely aware of how much money I was grinding into a lower dollar product ... My meat sales have increased over 47% this year.
I was looking for an understanding of what to ask my processor for, what different cuts. I got a ton out of [the workshop], it was eye opening for me….to see “this is your chuck, this is what you get out of it, this is why you can’t get a porterhouse chuck, this is how much you get out of this cut of meat.
I can tell you the women i meat conference delivered more than I expected in ways of networking and learning. … You can never underestimate the camaraderie of women and the balancing act of work, family, partnership etc.
I’ve learned WHO can help me when I need an answer. WHAT opportunities exist within the meat community to get products. The vast specialized knowledge base within the group
As a farmer I found it very helpful overall because not only do you hear the perspectives of other women in your same situation and learn from them, but it is very important to get the perspective of other business owners, processors, restaurants, butchers, etc., because we are all needing to work together to be successful.

A Growing Movement...

Women are the cutting edge of the local meat movement.  While chefs, butchers, and farmers remain male-led professions ((male ranchers account for 97% of all US livestock sales (2012 census)), women are taking the stage.  

In response to the growing local food movement, NC farms selling local meat have doubled over the past 5 years with 32% involving a female operator (NCC 2016 survey); twice that of the national average.  Women attendance at the country’s largest local meat event increased by over 20% since 2011. Plus, the greater Raleigh area has the highest percentage of farms selling meat statewide, positively correlating with the food-centric urban markets.

However, women are among the 49% of meat/livestock farmers that struggle to achieve profitability. Challenges include proficiency and confidence in communication relating to pricing, processing, and business decisions to gain credibility and access markets.  Additionally, women often lack the professional networks that accelerate learning in a supportive environment.

In 2013, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ NC Choices (NCC), a Raleigh-based program that provides educational programming to advance local, pasture-based meats, held the first-ever Women Working in the Meat Business (WWMB) seminar.  The goal was to empower women to tackle barriers in their career by offering technical and business planning while expanding peer-to-peer professional networks.  Female chefs, farmers, butchers, and processors from as far away as Nova Scotia ranging from 17-72 years old, attended this sold-out program which soon gained national recognition. 

This fall, NCC is doubling the WWMB size to offer training to a broader network of women advancing local meat. WWMB graduates are the leaders re-imagining our food system by raising animals on pasture, opening local meat businesses, and supporting the NCC’s mission of advancing sustainable food and farming systems throughout NC.