Making $ense of Meat Marketing
- Small meat processors cannot access these large-volume markets and thus must earn money by charging producers to process their meat.
- Small-scale producers can make money by cutting out middlemen and selling directly to end consumers.
Mike cautioned that branded programs typically will not pencil out unless they can move more than 1000 cattle a years or 3000 hogs. For small-scale producers the best option is to sell halves, quarters and bundles (groupings of cuts totaling more than $100) or they will get too bogged down in the transaction costs of marketing individual cuts – this related well with several of the attendees who felt they had wasted whole days at farmers’ markets to sell only 3 lbs. of ground beef.
Lorentz Meats has been in business since 1967 and employs 45 people. They are a USDA certified, organic certified, and European Union certified facility. Mike and his family have successfully developed a small meat processing plant by working working in tandem with individual farmers and producer groups. Mike also developed a curriculum called “Branding Your Beliefs” to help farmers succeed in marketing their meats.
The afternoon session featured a group of producers who are using farmers’ markets, meat CSAs, Buying clubs, internet web sales, direct marketing and selling to institutions to keep much of the value in their hands.
Chris Lerch and his wife, Cindy from Blue Heron Organics in Milo, IA have an 75 acre farm southeast of Des Moines that is entirely seeded down to forages. Chris discussed how beef cattle operations are considered “natural.” And that identifying the customers desired feelings about meat is almost as important as the actual taste itself.
They currently have 18 agnus and black baldy cows. They began direct marketing their beef 12 years ago, and all of the beef they produce is marketed directly to direct consumers. They also operate an internet-based business where they sell various natural products to customers across the country (http://www.blueheronorganics.com/). They have two children, ages 8 and 10.
Cindy noted that the farmers market requires a serious investment in time including early 1 AM wake-up on Saturday. This year the cropland, on which they produce corn, soybeans, oats and hay, will all be certified organic. They also have a farrow-to-finish hog operation, and they produce eggs and broilers. They have been involved in direct marketing their pork, broilers and eggs for over ten years. They also sell some hogs to Niman Ranch. They have three grown sons.
Investments in personal call time was stressed as a crucial component of establishing business. Even if it might take 100 calls to get one customer. It is also important to keep in communication with other PFI members who are trying things differently because the whole system is set up to discourage change.