Blake Brown George Ferguson Ag Development Forum
On hand for the Ag Development Forum at the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh are North Carolina State University agricultural economist Dr. Blake Brown, left, and George Ferguson, feed administrator with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron seen as markets for Carolina agriculture

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and other value-added meal services fit well for North Carolina’s sweet potato and produce farmers.

The growing interest in culinary culture with such meal-preparation services as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh present a great market opportunity for North Carolina farmers, says North Carolina State University agricultural economist Dr. Blake Brown.

Speaking at the Ag Development Forum during the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh Feb. 1, Brown said Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and other value-added meal services fit well for North Carolina’s sweet potato and produce farmers. Meat producers could benefit too.

“We can move into that value-added sector rather than just sell in the general sector,” Brown said.

“There is segment of our customer population that wants to know where their food comes from,” Brown said.  “They want to know the story about the farmer. We see this moving beyond local food and it’s blurring the lines of what we traditionally call local food. Everybody wants to be local now and tell their story, whether Amazon Fresh or Walmart.”

Global Meat Demand

Brown noted that about 68 percent of North Carolina’s agricultural income comes from the livestock and poultry sectors. Global per capita meat consumption is increasing rapidly in both developing countries and industrialized countries.

“As people get more income, they want to eat better and get more meat in their diet,” Brown said.

Many developing countries such as China want to produce the meat themselves, which benefits the feed grain sector. “In developing countries like Japan there is tremendous opportunity to export meat to them directly,’ he said.

North Carolina farmers need to keep an eye on Brazil, which has tremendous agricultural productivity and capacity.

“If the Brazilian government would get its game in line and develop adequate infrastructure for their farmers it would really be scary because they have very innovative farmers who don’t have the opportunities and benefit of infrastructure, and government help that we have in the U.S. Despite that, they are still extremely competitive,” Brown said.

Brazil is now the largest soybean producer and exporter in the world, surpassing the U.S., although the U.S. is close behind. Brazil is also a large producer of pork and poultry in the world market. Brown said Brazil’s hog and poultry industry is integrated and very sophisticated.

“They are looking to export poultry and hogs to a lot of the countries that we target. Brazil would love to be Mexico’s largest of pork and poultry, and they are not much further from Mexico than we are. We have to keep that competition in mind moving forward,” Brown said

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