Kansas Profiles: Connecting with consumers
“Connecting with consumers.” That’s a goal of many food companies, but today we’ll meet a young beef producer who has taken this idea to heart. She finds that delivering beef and communicating with families is the most rewarding part of her job.
Lettie McKinney is the founder of MC- Meat Company, which provides homegrown beef directly from the ranch to the consumer. The family brand, based on their last name, is pronounced “M C Bar.”
The McKinneys have farmed and raised cattle for decades in southwest Kansas since Lettie’s ancestors settled there in the 1920s.
“My great-grandparents lived through the Dust Bowl and the Depression,” Lettie McKinney said. “We’re still here by the grace of God.” Today, she is part of the fourth generation on the ranch.
Lettie McKinney attended school in the nearby town of Manter and then Stanton County High School in Johnson. She earned her animal science degree at Oklahoma State University and then graduated from the ranch management program at Texas Christian University. Lettie worked at feedyards in Texas and Kansas before moving back home.
Today the McKinneys’ operation is evenly divided between crop farming and beef production, with about 150 momma cows.
In 2009, Lettie’s father, Brad, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery, it was found to be benign, but by a decade later, the disease had returned. Lettie moved back to the ranch to help.
She had already been thinking about how to generate more value from the family’s beef production. In 2018, she launched MC- Meat Company. This was a way of selling their beef direct to consumers.
“Every ounce of beef we sell is from a calf that is born and raised on our ranch,” Lettie McKinney said. “They don’t leave the place until we take them to be processed.” That creates a very direct supply chain and the opportunity for high quality control.
The McKinneys have upgraded their Hereford and Red Angus cattle, using Gardiner Angus bulls and others plus premium Japanese breeds. The finished product, called Brad’s Beef, is available at a couple of local grocery outlets but is primarily sold online.
Brad’s Beef is available in the form of KC strip steaks, ribeyes, short ribs, farm-fresh ground beef, and more. Packages can include the ground beef bundle or what’s called the picnic basket. It is also possible to sign up in advance for shares such as a half, quarter, or full side of beef. The MC- website offers hats and bags with the family brand, plus other products such as spices and rubs.
Along with placing orders online, customers can reach Lettie through social media. “People can call or message or text me, I’m on Facebook and Instagram,” McKinney said.
Of course, internet service is a game-changer for a business like this.
“Pioneer Communications is our provider, and they are working on getting fiber optic cable to us,” McKinney said. Good broadband access opens up a world of opportunities for rural businesses.
“The sky’s the limit,” McKinney said. “I can be in small-town Kansas but service New York, New York.”
Delivery service is also vital.
“Our UPS man is a lifesaver,” McKinney said. “I’ve been known to track him down in town.” MC- can pack and ship beef by two-day air.
MC- Meat Company has shipped as far away as California and Wisconsin. Lettie McKinney also personally delivers beef in the region, and that is what she finds most rewarding.
“I like delivering beef,” she said. “It’s nice to go into the customer’s home and share with the family. That’s something that I will always cherish.”
She said she likes sharing her family’s story and being transparent with consumers.
“Just like them, I want safe, high-quality food,” McKinney said.
It’s great to see this message come from near the rural community of Manter, population 171 people. Now, that’s rural.
For more information, go to www.mcbarmeatco.com.
Connecting with consumers is not just a slogan, it is a way of life for Lettie McKinney at MC- Meat Company. She’s making a difference by building consumer connections.
— Ron Wilson is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves.