Edgefield Prime Meat Company

Bledsoe County, Tennessee
Bledsoe Co Meat pic

Bledsoe County, founded in 1804, is located on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau. The county lies in the middle of the Chattanooga, Nashville, and Knoxville triangle and is less than one hour from Tennessee’s major I-24, I-40 and I-75 corridors. Highway 127 connects the county to all three transportation routes and provides a convenient way for residents, businesses and tourists to reach the county. The county is home to well-preserved historic farms and properties. Fall Creek Falls State Park lies in the county and brings thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the natural beauty of the waterfalls and hardwood forests.

The county is also home to many agricultural producers in the forestry and livestock sectors. The natural resource assets that brought early settlers to the county still sustain these important agribusiness sectors. Today, development of new agribusiness enterprises is a high priority for the county’s leadership.

Livstock and Beef Production Focus

Early settlers to Bledsoe County and this portion of the Cumberland Plateau brought cattle and developed successful farms. In keeping with this history, Edgefield Farms began operations in Byrdstown in Pickett County producing high-quality beef cattle for sale to national processors. Edgefield beef became highly sought after by four national companies and, with demand, came farm and herd expansion into Morgan and Fentress counties. While sales to these markets were highly profitable, the owners became aware of new value-added opportunities with the emerging consumer demand for locally-grown, high-quality meat products that were naturally grassfed and free from antiboitics.

Market research confirmed that consumers are looking for local, family-based farms. These trends created huge growth potential for the company’s products. Buying locally-grown and processed food also positively impacts the local economy. By feeding, harvesting, and processing livestock in rural Tennessee, there is a shift in where dollars are being spent for those processes in terms of added feed, animal health products, fuel, labor, etc. With this idea and the supporting research and local marketing distribution channels in development, the idea of the Edgefield Prime Meat Company was born.

The owners’ initial plan was to build a new USDA-inspected livestock facility in the Morgan or Fentress county area, but Bledsoe County had an important asset in a USDA-certified meat processing plant in between Pikeville and Dunlap that came on the market at the right time. In 2018 Edgefield Farms owners and an additional local investor purchased the certified facility that was a rare asset in this portion of the state. The partners began the Edgefield Prime Meat Company to process Edgefield Farms beef for local distribution. The acquisition would save Edgefield Farms considerable transportation costs, open lucrative local markets, and provide processing services to local livestock farmers in need of access to a USDA-inspected facility. The nearest USDA facility was over 100 miles away with a waiting period of several months, so demand from local farmers was clear.

Agriculture Enterprise Fund

Edgefield Prime Meat Company owners began work with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) Agribusiness Development Consultant for livestock production early in 2017 to discuss their goal of opening a USDA-inspected meat processing facility and expand into value-added beef and pork products to local consumers. The company’s pivot to value-added processing and the opportunity to make the service more readily available to regional farmers made the project eligible for new TDA incentives and grants.

The facility near Dunlap had the capacity to process 90 units per week but only had freezer capacity for half of that amount. The project needs and objectives matched the TDA Agricultural Enterprise Fund (AEF) program priorities. Grant support to increase the footprint of the plant and provide much needed storage space to increase the throughput of the facility was possible. Company officials and TDA consultants developed the scope for an application to offset a portion of the construction costs and purchase of a new freezer and processing equipment.

In December of 2017, Edgefield Prime Meat Company officials received notification of the award of an AEF grant that would allow them to proceed with expansion plans. The company was also awarded TDA Agricultural Enhancement Grant funding to complete the project. Through the funding, Edgefield operators would no longer be limited to meeting their own production needs and could provide additional services to other farmers. Edgefield Farms, the owner’s subsidiary would reduce transportation and commission costs to bring their high-quality beef to market. Access to local processing services would increase the region’s farm incomes by offering nearby beef farmers convenient and available access to local processing services.

In the spring of 2018, the TDA Agribusiness Development Consultant contacted Edgefield Prime and invited them to be involved in the Tennessee Grocer’s Show that has an area specifically set up for Pick Tennessee Product producers. Edgefield participated in the product judging as well as the Business Connect portion of the event and was able to gain new grocery buyers from across the state. In the summer of 2018, company officials began construction and purchase of storage and processing equipment to assist them in the increased wholesale customer base.

Economic Impact

The new Edgefield Prime Meat Company freezer, processing equipment, and facility expansion will help to meet the growing demand for farm-direct meat products and add additional value-added revenue streams to Edgefield Farms and regional farmers. The plant had one part-time and three full-time employees before the project. The funding will allow the company to double the number of full-time meat processing jobs, expand sales options for a larger number of livestock producing farmers, and increase sales tax revenues for the state and county. It will also have a larger direct impact on agricultural inputs including livestock feed, animal health products, fuel, electricity, equipment and supplies from local businesses that are necessary to keep the company in operation.  First year projections include

New Jobs Created  3 to 5 
New Revenue Generated $150,000
Additional Livestock Farmers Served  20

Project Funding

Tennessee Agriculture Enterprise Fund Grant  $38,785
Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Grant  $22,167
Edgefield Prime Meat Match (matching funds for both grants) $94,196
TOTAL PROJECT FUNDING (includes state and local funding) $155,148

Program Leadership and Partners

Tennessee Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Advancement Coordinator - Program Contact
Tennessee Department of Agriculture – Livestock Agribusiness Development Consultant - Program Contact
Edgefield Prime Meat Company
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

For more project information visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Tennessee Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Enterprise Fund

The Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF) is an incentive program that supports Tennessee’s priority of job creation and economic development by facilitating agricultural development in Tennessee. The AEF awards grants to starting or expanding agricultural, food and forestry businesses; farmers, nonprofits, local governments, and other entities in Tennessee. Successful recipients demonstrate a strong potential for impact on local farm income, access to markets, increased capacity or agricultural innovation. The AEF is a product of the Governor’s Rural Task Force. It is administered by TDA in conjunction with TNECD.

Tennessee Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Enhancement Program

The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) provides cost-share dollars to agricultural producers for the purpose of making long-term investments in Tennessee farms and communities. Participation allows producers to maximize farm profits, adapt to changing market situations, improve operation safety, increase farm efficiency, and make positive economic impact in their communities.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.