“Locally produced” is one of the hottest terms in the food business today, and some consumers will pay premium prices for foods, including meat and dairy products, grown on local farms.

But developing reliable supply and marketing chains can present a challenge, particularly for the smaller producers and processors typically involved in local-foods efforts. That’s especially true in the case of meat products according to a new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service. The report, titled “Local Meat and Poultry Processing: The Importance of Business Commitments for Long-Term Viability,” outlines some of the challenges and potential solutions for building viable local markets.

For producers to market their meat locally of course, they need a local processor. But for a local processor to remain economically viable, they need steady, year-around business rather than dramatic seasonal swings in demand for slaughter and processing services.