CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students clad in their trademark blue Future Farmers of America Jackets along with the West Virginia Beef Queen roamed the Capital Market in Charleston Monday with trays in hand offering up samples of beef tips and beef kabobs to anybody interested in eating one. Nobody was too proud to eat beef off the stick grilled only feet away in celebration of the state’s beef industry.
“Beef is about a $225 Million industry in West Virginia and that’s significant,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick. “We want it to go higher and higher. We want West Virginians consuming a West Virginia product.”
Helmick was joined by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for the annual Father’s Day beef luncheon. Tomblin and Helmick agreed the possibilities for the expansion of cattle farming in West Virginia are lucrative. Right now the vast majority of the beef produced in West Virginia is shipped on the hoof to stockyards in the Midwest where cattle are fattened, slaughtered, and the processed meat is shipped back to West Virginia for sale. Helmick believes the entire operation should be centered here.
“There’s many positives to us trying to do that,” he said. “First we get a fresher product here. We don’t have to pay all that transportation cost, and at the day we know the west is suffering because of water.”
Helmick envisions creating feed lots in West Virginia where locally grown beef can be sold, slaughtered, and distributed straight into West Virginia stores.
“By doing that the numbers will increase,” he said. “The employment in the beef industry will increase. We see a significant opportunity.”
Governor Tomblin spent a little time turning meat in the grill during the event. Between bites of his own beef kabob, he agreed with Helmick.
“What people are going more and more toward is farm to table, produce, meat, or whatever,” said the Governor. “We import about seven Billion dollars worth of food and only produce about a Billion dollars worth. We’re trying to do what we can to get family farms producing again because we’ve got a great market here in West Virginia.”
The West Virginia Beef Industry Council and the Beef Queen presented Helmick and Tomblin with fresh West Virginia grown steaks for Father’s Day.