LITCHFIELD — Farmers who are typically fatalistic about bad news like a wet growing season are trying to shrug off rising fuel costs.
Although the ripple effect of higher petroleum costs has inflated the cost of just about everything from animal feed to utility costs and plastic packaging, farmers here are banking on a strong consumer demand and higher sales volume to offset a shrinking profit margin.
Prices are rising at farmers markets, but not as much as produce on supermarket shelves.
Litchfield cattle farmer John Morosani hasn’t figured out how much of the $8.60 he gets on average for a pound of beef goes toward paying for transportation, but he knows it costs a lot more than last year. His costs are up by about 15 percent over last year.
That includes the cost of kelp dried in Maine and used as a mineral supplement.
“They told me the drying process costs a lot more now because of fuel,” Morosani said.
Except for the finest cuts of tenderloin — which sell for $29 a pound — his prices have remained the same over the past year for 18 cuts.
Morosani and others like him consider rising fuel costs as yet another reason for consumers to buy local.
“I am spending a whole lot more on gasoline to get to five farmers markets but it’s a negligible expense when you compare it with the cost of transporting the steak you buy in the store from a Midwestern supplier,” he said. “The supermarket steak travels an average of 1,200 miles. My steaks travel just 40-50.”
If not for a rigid regulatory process and a shortage of meat processing facilities throughout the Northeast, Morosani wouldn’t have to ship his cattle more than a few miles.