Karns Foods Takes Control of Beef Supply Chain

Independent retailer launches 1st-ever locally sourced and owned USDA Premium Angus beef
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Karns beef
Karns Foods recently introduced a line of fresh beef sourced through its in-house Karns Beef Company.

Karns Foods is keeping it close to home for its store brand beef – like, really close. The Pennsylvania-based independent grocer has gone vertical with its beef supply chain, working with local farmers and ranchers who provide a variety of cuts for its new PA Preferred label.

Rather than wait for the under-pressure supply chain to settle out, the Karns operation opted to produce its own beef – and start the Karns Beef Company – by teaming up with more 19 family-owned cattle businesses in the agriculturally-rich area of central Pennsylvania. The grocer is also collaborating with the Keystone Farm Future program that aims to deliver on consumer demand for locally-sourced products while simultaneously supporting area producers, especially dairy farmers who have struggled in recent years due to market changes and declining demand for cow’s milk.

The PA Preferred line offered by the Karns Beef Company includes 100% Black Angus Choice and Prime beef products, including steaks, roasts, ground beef and unique butcher cuts like flat iron, skirt and hanger steaks. The cuts will be available in the meat case at all 10 Karns locations.

According to President and CEO Scott Karns, the indie’s decision to manage its own cattle supply made sense from several angles. “There are two key reasons why Karns ventured into owning its own beef herd. The first was allowing us as a company to have steady supply of beef. During COVID, gaps in the supply chain were highlighted and as a company we began to examine how we could strengthen our own supply chain for the future. The second was the desire to integrate another layer of local into our store. Bringing this line to life has allowed Karns to offer the first grocery store PA Preferred beef line,” he told Progressive Grocer.

Karns Foods Takes Control of Beef Supply Chain
Karns Foods' President and CEO Scott Karns

The beef line also gives the grocer a leg up from a quality standpoint, the CEO pointed out. “Our quality requirements of the Angus beef program are resulting in USDA Choice and Prime grading. The high standard of feed and care will ensure all individuals have a premium experience,” he explained, adding that the whole steer program allows the retailer to offer both value and premium cuts. “For customers looking for value they can enjoy our freshly ground burger, flank steaks, skirt steaks and roast. Shoppers who are looking for a premium offering can find ribeye, filet, NY strips and short ribs.”   

The timeline from concept to execution for his innovative program was about 18 months. “During that time we worked in partnership with Keystone Farm Future to explore what our needs were, the quality product we were looking to secure and searching for the right producing and processing partners,” Karns recalled.

Although the beef just recently become available, Karns reported that shoppers are keen on the new offerings. “Our customers have really been looking forward to the arrival of the PA Local Angus Beef. Seeing the quality of the beef and knowing we have helped promote local Pennsylvania farming gives us great satisfaction. Karns has always prided itself on offering a full-service meat department and supporting the local community – this endeavor allows us to further both of those items,” he remarked.

Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Karns Foods operates 10 Pennsylvania locations open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Scott Karns is the son of founder David Karns, who began the company in 1959.

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