App Will Match Farmers With Meat Distributors

There's a new startup that's envisioning a way for people to eat even more meat. AgLocal is developing a smartphone app to help small farmers expand local markets for their meat by connecting them with independent distributors.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And many people want to carve out a slice of the national meat market - that includes people who would like to sell you locally grown meat.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A company from Kansas City - now, there's a city that knows meat - is developing an application, or app, for smartphones. Nathan Jones wants to help local farmers find distributors.

NATHAN JONES: You've got a lot of folks picking up the phone trying to find each other. And what we hear from both sides of the equation, surprisingly, is, you know, I'm really looking for more farms when we talk to distributors. And the farms say, you know, I'm really looking for more independent distributors, and I can't find them.

INSKEEP: The company Ag Local intends to bring them together, starting in New York and San Francisco.

MONTAGNE: Jones hopes eventually to get information to consumers, locavores who want to eat locally produced, sustainable food.

JONES: Surprisingly, there's a ton of these services on the Web right now for fruits and vegetables, for sustainability. But there isn't any marketplaces that actually support and connect the whole ecosystem around the way that meat is bought and sold.

MONTAGNE: When you buy local food, you aren't paying for long-distance shipping that uses a lot of energy, though when it comes to meat, the equation can get complicated.

INSKEEP: On this program a couple of months ago, the economist Tyler Cowan argued that if you want sustainable food, you might consider that raising meat takes a lot of energy.

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TYLER COWAN: The way to make the world a better place through your eating is simply to eat a bit less meat. Local is sometimes good, sometimes bad. But even when it's good, it's environmental impact is relatively small compared to other possible improvements.

MONTAGNE: But Cowan went on to say he likes the taste of local food, and in Topeka, Kansas, he's likely to order a steak.

INSKEEP: In Kansas City, the founders of that startup company would like to make sure a local steak arrives when Cowan orders it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KANSAS CITY")

GENE NELSON: (as Will Parker) (Singing) Everything's up to date in Kansas City. They've gone about as far as they can go. They got a big theater they call a burleque. For 50 cents you can see a dandy show. One of the gals is fat and pink and pretty, as round above as she was round below. I could swear that she was padded...

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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