Establishing a Cooperative Business Model for Marketing and Selling Kunekune Pork Products

Final report for FNE19-918

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2019: $13,807.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Heritage Haus Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Jennifer Bassman
Heritage Haus Farm • Empire Kunekune Pig Association / Kunekune Pork Produers Association
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Project Information

Summary:

In 2019, we set out to create a partnership model that would enable multiple small farms to market and sell Kunekune pork in order to share risks and benefits, create new products, and reach new markets. While our pork producers organization (Kunekune Pork Producers, KPPA) would focus on cooperatively marketing and selling pork, our sister organization Empire Kunekune Pig Association (EKPA) would focus on general education for farmers wishing to raise Kunekune pigs for meat. Our journey was long and winding, resulting in significant deviations from our original plans due to the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 on the economy and society at large, but we did end up developing a trial process to test our ideas. 

Our revised theory, proposed in mid-2020, was that an organization like the one we created (Kunekune Pork Producers Association) could serve as a coordinating body to purchase Kunekune pork from farmers at an above market price, turn that pork into a premium 2nd level processed product (salami), and retail that product to earn a profit for the organization. Additionally, we believed there would be value to serious Kunekune pork producers if an organization like KPPA also offered a "brand/label" certification so that participating farmers could operate under this independently verified program (similar to Animal Welfare Approved, or Certified Angus Beef) which would not only add value to their products but also provide marketing support as they sold their products. 

We tested this theory by producing a trial batch of salami, created from the pork from 3 participating farms, under our "Certified 100% Kunekune Pork" trademarked label. In July of 2021, we completed the production of 691, 7 0z. salamis in four flavors. Total direct costs to produce the salami was $8,429. The salami was marketed directly to consumers via the EKPA and KPPA websites, social media, and individual farm pages. Farmers were also permitted to purchase salamis at a cost to retail at their own farms. At the conclusion of the grant period, we sold 371 salamis for total revenue of $3,793. The revenue range for the remaining salami (depending on whether they are sold for wholesale or retail) is $5,665-$7,540.

 

TOTAL POTENTIAL REVENUE & NET PROFIT FROM TRIAL BATCH WITH KPPA AS COORDINATING ORGANIZATION

Potential Gross Revenue Range from Batch 1
$9,488 - $11,333
Potential Net Profit Range from Batch 1 $789 - $2,634

The profit margins, as shown above, are extremely thin, especially when considering there was a significant amount of unpaid labor involved. We experienced challenges in managing the logistics and marketing, and pursuing sales as the EKPA/KPPA board is comprised of an all-volunteer group of farmers with limited time to invest in these tasks. Thus at the end of this trial, we reached the conclusion that it would NOT be financially feasible for an organization like KPPA to be the coordinating body for this type of cooperative model.

However, we did determine that following the same framework and process of our trial, a self-organized group of 3-7 Kunekune farmers COULD produce a charcuterie product or products on a small scale, bring it to market, and earn a profit. The responsibility of the upfront expenses, logistics, marketing, and sales would be shared among the farmers, as would the profits. KPPA would still have a role in this model, as a consulting organization and certifying body (which we have established a framework for) that would offer cooperating farmers guidance on the framework/process of producing charcuterie (or other products if desired), assistance in finding processors, developing recipes, and in the USDA label approval process, and marketing support via the KPPA certification program. For all of these services, KPPA would receive fees that would help sustain the organization. 

 

EXAMPLE: (using same numbers from our trial)
• 3 farmers pool 7 pigs totalling 1202 lbs total live weight.
• This meat is processed into 691 salamis for a total direct cost of $4,489. (Direct costs only include 2 levels of processing, transport, and marketing)
• Cost per farmer assuming equal input from 3 farmers: $1,496.
• Each farmer receives 230 salamis (assuming equal input)
• Potential GROSS Revenue for each farmer @ Retail: $4,600
• Potential GROSS Revenue for each farmer @ Wholesale: $3,450
• Potential NET Profit per Farmer @ Retail: $3,104  (net profit margin 67.48%)
• Potential NET Profit per Farmer @ Wholesale: $1,954  (net profit margin 56.6%)
The concept is that while $4,500 and seven market-weight hogs might be a lot for an individual small-scale Kunekune farmer to invest in upfront costs for a product, an investment of $1,400 and 2-3 hogs could be more feasible, and still result in the opportunity to create a product that has a high net profit margin.

 

While KPPA focused on developing models to enhance collaborative opportunities for meat production specifically, our sister organization, EKPA (Empire Kunekune Pig Association) focused on general education and awareness about raising Kunekune pigs for meat. Again, COVID-19 caused us to rapidly pivot from a focus on in-person educational events to online learning. Throughout the course of the grant period, EKPA offered numerous online classes, workshops, virtual shows, chats, and Q&A's, grew its membership to approximately 100 farms, and developed a partnership with one of the 2 breed registries, the American Kunekune Pig Society. (AKKPS)

Project Objectives:

Our main objective is to create a partnership that enables multiple farms to market and sell Kunekune pork in order to share risks and benefits between a group of farmers selling pork together. A cooperative business model seems like the logical fit for our goals. Currently, seven farmers located in New York and Maryland are prepared to make the operational changes involved, and several more have expressed interest in considering joining in the future. All committed farmers have been raising Kunekune Pigs for three and ten years. We have sold meat in individual cuts, wholesale to restaurants, and/or in wholes/halves via freezer trade. Since we have a group of farms that agreed to this first step, we will ask if this method of partnership can be developed and expanded as a model to others by creating a framework and providing thorough technical assistance in order to collaboratively produce high-quality Kunekune pork for the market.

We seek to create written procedures and way of collaboration that solidifies a Kunekune pork cooperative. We seek SARE funds to develop five main components of establishing our partnership: membership, product consistency, logistics, market demand and marketing, promotion, brand development, and sales.

Introduction:

The Kunekune pig is a rare, but growing landrace breed of pig with many exceptional characteristics. Since facing near extinction in the 1970s, New Zealand’s native breed now has fairly healthy populations in countries across the globe, including the United States. As breeders are moving from saving the Kunekune pig to sustaining it, more and more people are looking to a model of preservation through utilization – the Kunekune pig as a pork animal. The Kunekune Pig in America is now finding a growing niche market for small farms, in sustainable farming systems, for permaculture, and with chefs, charcutiers, and caterers.

Kunes are prized for their ability to graze grass cleanly and thrive on little more than pasture all while creating succulent, red, well-marbled delicious tasting pork with copious amounts of excellent, pure white fat and unblemished leaf lard. (American Kunekune Pig Registry, www.americankunekunepigregistry.com/about)

As a pastured pig with almost no tendency to root, they contribute to a healthier pasture environment. They reduce runoff compared to bare lots or confinement. They spread manure by design — feeding the soil as they contribute to healthier pastures wherever they live. Highly amicable animals, they are easily compatible with other livestock, and can cooperatively manage pastures alongside ruminants such as sheep and goats.

600 breeders of Kunekune pigs in the US and that number increases every year. The vast majority of these farms are raising Kunekunes on a small scale (less than 50 animals). As the number of farms raising Kunekune pigs continues to grow, so does the need for a business model that can generate sustainable income from the animals. Many farms, including the applicants to this grant, are already seeing increased interest in a pork product like Kunekune meat - high-quality, sustainably raised with minimal impact to the environment and locally produced. However, we are also finding that, as individual farms, we are not able to meet this demand. We struggle with getting consistent processing dates to keep meat in stock regularly.  We are challenged to individually find enough time to market the products available to all potential markets. Given these circumstances, we feel that the development of a partnership through a cooperative business is the logical solution to expand markets and increase overall income for sustainable farm operations while solving some limitations individual farmers face in terms of scale, brand/marketing power and logistics.

If we are successful in our endeavor, we will be able to share our experience, knowledge and outcomes with Kunekune farmers in other regions as a model for sustaining our breed and our farm businesses for the foreseeable future.

Description of farm operation:

Jennifer Bassman is the owner of Heritage Haus, a 15-acre farm located in Berkshire, NY specializing in producing heritage breed pork and lamb. She also runs an online Store, offering locally produced meats, dairy, produce, and dry goods for home delivery to the greater Ithaca area. She was founder of the Empire Kunekune Pig Association and the Kunekune Pork Producers Association, serving as president from 2018-2021, and a was a founding member of the Kunekune Pig Preservation Project.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Matt LeRoux - Technical Advisor
  • Barb Rossi (Educator and Researcher)
  • Carol DeYoung (Educator and Researcher)
  • Kathy Brennan (Educator and Researcher)
  • Amanda Hand (Educator and Researcher)
  • Heather Sandford (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

Our main objective for this project to create a partnership that enables multiple farms to market and sell Kunekune pork in order to  share risks and benefits between a group of farmers selling pork together. We started as a group 3 of experienced and Kunekune pig breeders and producers in Upstate NY who sought to develop a cooperative model for joint marketing so that that would expand sales channels to places where we could not reach individually, and increase our overall farm sales. As small farms often struggle with limited resources for labor, time for sales and marketing, and capacity for growth, we wanted to explore how we could work collaboratively to overcome these barriers and create a more sustainable system for small farms. If/when successful we would be able to share our experiences with other farmers interested in utilizing the cooperative model. 

In 2019, we added 5 other project member producers and investigated market channels, processors, pricing structures and organizational guidelines under which we could operate. We also explored opportunities to utilize emerging technologies, particularly Blockchain, to add market value to our product and provide valuable insights into breeding and raising Kunekune pigs. We conducted an on-farm seminar/hands-on workshop for 14 farmers in NY, MD and PA, a webinar titled "Kunekune 101: Ask Me Anything" for 18 farmers, sat on a panel about co-op formation at the Carolina Meat Conference with an audience of approximately 35 and created an educational table display about Kunekunes and Kunekune Pork for the Broome County Fair. We created a logo and word mark for our organization, filed for Trademark on both, and developed a working draft of 100% Certified Kunekune Pork Participation Guidelines.

March 2019

  • Project members met twice, on March 3 and March 22. Discussed scope of grant, brainstormed some ideas.
  • Began planning on-farm workshop, Kunekune 101, to be held at Bel Canto Farm.
  • Set goals for the co-op. 
    • Create a sustainable market for our product
    • Establish Kunekune pork as a niche product and part of the higher-end market. Tap into the local, pasture raised grass-fed market.
    • Conduct research that helps standardize the Kunekune as a meat breed and helps breeders make better choices with regard to feeding and breeding. 
    • Investigate the use of new technology like Blockchain which could provide immutable records that verify the quality, breed and origin of our pork adding value to our products 
    • Share in the risks and benefits with other producers

April 2019

  • Project members met on April 24. 
    • Decided on name for Co-Op (Kunekune Pork Producers Association, KPPA), purchased urls for kunekuneporkproducers.com and certifiedkunepork.com
    • Identified a Blockchain company Beefchain to contact about using Blockchain in our Co-op.
    • Decided that we would need a set of criteria for becoming "Certified" in our co-op.
  • Held on-farm workshop Kunekune 101 at Bel Canto Farm in Trumansburg. The workshop focused on herd health care, confirmation, and breeding. Dr. Mary Smith of Cornell University gave a lecture on Swine Health and demonstrated how to do a necropsy. 17 farmers attended from NY, PA and MD. Attendees were surveyed following the workshop for feedback and thoughts on topics for future events.
  • Had initial call with Rob Jennings of Beefchain, gathered information to bring to the group. 
  • Identified the Carolina Meat Conference as an event that would make sense for group members to attend.

May 2019 

  • Project members met on May 17. 
    • Reviewed survey results from the workshop
    • Reviewed initial information provided by Beefchain
  • Discussed what we would want to include in our criteria for being certified within the coop
  • Agreed we needed to create a logo and word mark to represent our organization. Identified an attorney at Miller Mayer, LLC who can assist with trademarking. 
  • Scheduled meeting with Miller Mayer

June 2019

  • Met with Miller Mayer, received board approval to proceed with filing for trademark for Kunekune Pork Producers association and 100% certified Kunekune Pork
  • Project members met on June 21. 
    • Finalized draft logo and word mark.
    • Discussed Beefchain - needed additional information on costs, but potential plan created to test tracking a batch of pigs.
    • Created an excel spreadsheet representing the data we would like to collect on our pigs over time. In the future, this data would be recorded in the blockchain system, but can be recorded manually for now.
    • Agreed to create a Kunekune pig/pork display at the Broome County fair in July
    • Discussed processing and logistics - Identified Regional Access as a potential distributor. 

July 2019

  • Project Members met on July 3 & 21.
    • Discussion about the AKPR (breed registry) announcing a similar pork certification brand. Brainstormed how we would distinguish our program by setting higher standards and working to utilize blockchain for verification.
  • Set up and managed an informational display on Kunekune pigs and pork at the Broome County Fair. Kunekunes were also exhibited by 4-H'ers at the fair.
  • We identified attendees for the Carolina Meat Conference and reached out to organizers about being presenters. Jenn Bassman was invited to sit on a panel about co-op formation. Jenn Bassman also received a scholarship to attend. 
  • Completed filing for trademarks on our logo and word mark.

August 2019

  • Project members met on August 16.
    • Members still struggling with pricing structure for co-op. Decided to reach out to other farmers scheduled to speak on the co-op panel to ask questions and gather feedback about our organization.
    • Set a date for a fall webinar Kunekunes: Ask Us Anything scheduled for September 27 
    • In light of one of our farmers being quarantined for rabies, discussed our vaccine practices on our farms.
  • Learned that IT developer for Beefchain left company, our contact at Beefchain is difficult to reach.

September 2019

  • Led a webinar, Kunekunes: Ask Us Anything on September 27. Approximately 18 guests in attendance. Conducted followup survey to get feedback and find out about interest in other topics.
  • Finalized criteria for participation in the certified Kunekune pork program.
  • Identified the New York Farm Viability Grant as a possible source of additional funding for blockchain research.

October 2019

  • The project members met on October 18
    • Discussed upcoming grant opportunities, membership models, logistic challenges
    • Discussed possibilities for next educational event
    • Recapped CMC event, and resources acquired at event. Agreed to add resources to website.
  • Barb Rossi and Jenn Bassman attended the Carolina Meat Conference. Jenn presented on a panel about co-op formation in the sustainable meat industry. Approximately 35 people attended. Connected with Slow Food USA, a genetic researcher interested in working with Kunekunes as well as restaurants and chefs. 
  • After weeks of no contact from Beefchain, we discovered that our primary contact was not with the company. The new CEO meets with us and gives us a very different message regarding pricing structure.

November 2019

  • Project members met on November 16
    • Discussed sales channels and challenges
    • members shared hesitancy to commit pigs to co-op without having guaranteed clients, but recognized difficulty of solidifying clients without guaranteed pigs
    • invited two new members to join the project, Karl Peabody of Peabody Farms and Amanda Hand of MKONO FARM
  • In light of the inconsistencies and turmoil within Beefchain, a new blockchain was identified, ripe.io, who was very interested in working with us and pursuing work via our grant. We submitted our NYFVI grant. 

December 2019

  • Project members met December 19
    • Scheduled winter webinar: How to choose a Processor, The ins and outs of Butchering for February 16
    • Discussed taking an organizational position about the changing breed standards from the registry.
    • Discussed consulting with Heather Sandford, founder of the Piggery, for insight into pricing and logistics. 
    • Discussed new processing options - Cornell is a possible option.
  • Submitted Grant for SARE Year 2, revisions to NYFVI 
  • Met with Andy Brudtkuhl of the National Pork Board who connected with us as a result of our work with ripe.io. NPB has some funds to do other work with blockchain and would be interested in doing more work with a heritage breed like Kunekunes. We will follow up in January-February 2020 after the budget has been approved.

 


2020

Much of our planned work in 2020 was sidelined due to the COVID - 19 pandemic.  The following explains how we pivoted and progress we made this year.

What’s Changed

While our main goal of establishing a cooperative model for small-scale Kunekune breeders to sell their pork remains the same, the market landscape has changed dramatically since the original submission of our proposal in 2018. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent devastation to the restaurant and service industry, the opportunities to sell high-end niche pork by wholes, halves or retail cuts have all but vanished for the foreseeable future. Small-scale farms are struggling to find processing dates at USDA facilities for small numbers of animals as these facilities manage increased demand from industrial processor bottlenecks.

Just like everyone else in this new environment, we have had to pivot our strategy in creating this coop. We need to address several issues, some related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some that have developed simply as a matter of time and experience working through the development process.

  • Find a new viable market channel and product that will thrive now and in the future. And create a process for getting the products to market.
  • Find a way to address the needs of farmers that cannot get processing dates for their animals.
  • Simplify and streamline our original plans for product standardization through a certification program
  • Finalize our membership program, marketing benefits, financials for the cooperative structure

Progress in 2020

  • Product Identification. After market research and evaluation we have determined that the best way to utilize Kunekune pork in our cooperative is by creating and selling charcuterie products, starting with 8 oz salamis in four flavors. This solves a number of problems identified above and provides the best opportunity for all participants in our supply chain to earn reasonable payments for their part in the production by:
    • Streamlining our quality assurance process as our finished product will come from one producer/charcuterie maker.
    • Allowing us to purchase finished animals from member farms that cannot find butcher dates and have them processed in larger batches at available facilities.
    • Giving us a product that :
      • Is shelf-stable
      • Is easily sold online direct to consumers, and affordably shipped nationwide
      • Commands a premium price per piece, but is still affordable to our target market
      • Creates a product that individual small-scale farmers are typically unable to produce on their own because of the quantities of animals needed and the amount of upfront cost required. As a cooperative, the member farmers will have the opportunity to purchase some finished product back at a discounted rate for resale in their own retail programs.
    • As a lard breed, allows us to utilize the Kunekune pig for its ideal purpose, making the most efficient use of the whole animal.
  • Cooperative Infrastructure We have established the basic outline for membership into the cooperative and the ways in which members may participate in the coop. This membership structure creates multiple revenue opportunities for the cooperative including the retail sale of charcuterie meat, membership fees, consulting fees, and farm certification fees.
  • Branding We have developed a logo, a brand claim (100% Certified Kunekune Pork) and a website. Our logo and brand claim have been legally Trademarked. We are in the process of submitting our logo, brand claim and brand claim verification process to the USDA for use on our product labels. We will be creating a process guide for others who may be interested in creating a brand claim label for their own products as an educational tool for all small-scale meat producers. Below: KPPA’s trademarked logo and claim, and Berkshire Pork TM and claim for comparison.

 

  • Farm Certification Process & Requirements We have developed our requirements and procedures for a farm to have the right to utilize the 100% Certified Kunekune Pork claim on their own products and to participate in the charcuterie project. We had planned to certify all seven current participating farms in 2020, but due to COVID-19 have been unable to conduct the necessary farm visits. For the purposes of the trial outlined below, we are going to operate as if we have all been officially certified until we are able to safely do our farm visits and complete the certifications.

2021 - REVISED Planned Activities 

To address these needs and accomplish measurable and meaningful tasks that fall within the scope of this grant we are proposing the following:

  • Member Farm Certification As soon as we are safely able, we will complete farm visits of all seven current participating farms to finalize our certifications. We will take videos and photos so that we can provide guidance tools for future farmers wishing to be certified
    • STATUS AS OF 9/30/21: COVID-19 continued to be a barrier to safe travel and in-person gathering, thus we were not able to complete in-person farm certifications. The protocol for being a certified farm has been finalized and shared with the group, and it was mutually agreed that for the time being, we would operate in good faith that our trial participants were adhering to said guidelines.
  • Continue Development of Cooperative Infrastructure With regards to creating the organizational structure of our Cooperative, still need to:
    • Finalize the details with regards to membership levels and cost of each of those levels.
      • For example, if a member just wanted to utilize our marketing and promotional materials/support about Kunekune pork they may pay less than a member interested in selling animals to the cooperative and thus requiring additional services like farm certification.
    • Finalize organizational structure with regards to board of directors, eventual paid roles, conditions required for member payouts, business type. Currently, KPPA operates as a sister organization to the Empire Kunekune Pig Association, a 501c3 educational organization. We have a shared board and financials. As we formalize and grow the Cooperative, we will need to determine how the two organizations operate together and how their finances and leadership will work together and separately.
      • STATUS AS OF 9/30/21 There were numerous discussions about possible organizational structures for a meat-producing cooperative. Our trial demonstrated that it would not be financially feasible for KPPA to operate as a coordinating body to purchase meat from farmers and produce salamis for a profit. However, KPPA could have a viable role as a marketing cooperative and quality-assurance and brand certifying body that offers consulting services to self-organized groups of Kunekune farmers wishing to produce next-level processed items collaboratively. In order to successfully do this, KPPA would need to establish itself as an independent 501ce with its own Board of Directors, as the EKPA board does not have the capacity to manage this.
  • Trial Product Production Kunekune Pork Producers Association will produce a trial batch of charcuterie salamis (approximately 600 pieces, 8 oz) for direct-to-consumer online sales. Grant funding is essential for this trial to assist in the sizable upfront costs involved with producing the products.
  • The purpose of this trial is to
    • practice and document the process from start to finish for future scaling and streamlining
    • determine if, at scale, this can be a viable model for our cooperative
    • establish relationships with vendors with whom we may work at a larger scale and longer-term (processors and charcuterie makers)
    • Take feedback from retail customers with regards to satisfaction with product, price point, ease of purchase
  • The process for this trial will be
    • Seven to Eight finished pigs needed to produce the salami will be purchased from KPPA member farms at a pre-determined price per pound live weight, based on current USDA pastured pork pricing. ($3.50/lb live wt)
    • KPPA will collect the finished pigs and deliver them to the processor on March 1 for slaughter. We will then collect the processed whole muscle and deliver it to Meatcrafters https://www.meatcrafters.com/ in Hyattville, MD for curing.
    • Once the product is finished curing and has been wrapped and labeled for sale (est date of May, 2021), KPPA will collect and manage inventory, retail the salami via direct to consumer online sales (on kunekuneporkproducers.com/) and by offering a small quantity to KPPA member farms (at discount) for resale at their own farms. Swine Nutrition Info Graphic EKPA Annual Meeting
    • Following each sale, we will follow up with customers via survey to gather information with regards to product satisfaction, ease of purchase, pricing, etc., and aggregate this data for future reporting.
    • STATUS AS OF 9/30/21: The trial of taking Kunekune pigs from finished live weight to second-level processed charcuterie was successfully completed by the end of May 2021, producing approximately 700 Salamis in four flavor varieties (175 in each flavor). We offered flights of four salamis for sale through the EKPA website and several farms sold individual items on their farms. Approximately 375 salami remain in inventory. Farmers experienced challenges developing and implementing a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy, particularly over the summer months when on-farm demands are highest. All agreed that an outside salesperson would likely be necessary to move product at even this scale, and unresolved discussions regarding possible compensation models for such person took place. 
  • Project Budget. Below is a table that represents direct costs to conduct the Charcuterie Project Trial. Our total modified budget, including some additional expenses (project leader hours, website) comes to $10,752. We have $7441.57 remaining in SARE funds. We are requesting that SARE fund all of the expenses listed in the modified budget, with the exception of $3,311 of the $5,320 expense line to purchase the market weight pigs. We will be able to take a loan from EKPA’s funds to cover this additional amount, which we will repay once we have generated sales from products. Any net profit gained from this project will be reinvested into producing future products.
    • STATUS UPDATE AS OF 9/30/21: Charcuterie Batch 1 was produced at a direct cost of $8429.06 producing 691 salamis, or a direct cost of $12.20 per piece. To date, 314 salamis have been sold for a total revenue amount of $3793.20.

  • Reporting Outcomes and Educational Materials

Research results and discussion:

Results

  • As of the end of the grant period, KPPA was able to cooperatively produce a batch of 700 Certified 100% Kunekune salamis and has, since the end of May, sold 314 of those for total revenue of $3,793.
    • An additional batch of pigs has been processed to the first level and is awaiting next-level processing at Meat Crafters scheduled for the week of October 18. This will bring the total inventory of available salami to approximately 1000 pieces.
    • In spite of limited resources to push the products to market, there is growing interest in stocking the salamis in several restaurants and stores in New York, Indiana and Colorado, and individual sales, although slow, remain steady.
    • The gross revenue range for the remaining salami (depending on whether they are sold for wholesale or retail) is $5,665-$7,540, making the NET profit range possible for this trial batch $789 - $2,634.
  • EKPA/KPPA has developed certification protocols for farms wishing to participate in a cooperative program. Similar to other certification programs (Animal Welfare Approved, etc.) this protocol not only has standards for the breed (being verifiable as 100% Kunekune) but also welfare and husbandry standards. The goal of this certification program is to create an independent entity that helps to assure quality and consistency for any products under the KPPA certified label. Farmers would be able to take advantage of the collective branding and marketing provided by KPPA as a certifying body. As mentioned above, COVID-19 has prevented EKPA/KPPA from formally offering this certification program to farmers as on-farm visits to perform certifications have not been possible. Current participants in the KPPA Charcuterie trial are operating in good faith that welfare, record-keeping, and quality assurance standards are being followed. 
  • In spite of COVID-19 limitations, EKPA/KPPA has successfully offered numerous educational opportunities for farmers interested in raising Kunekune pigs for meat. From formal talks at farming conferences to casual zoom chats for Q&A sessions and back and forth conversations, our organization has grown our community to 100 farm members as of September 2021. In August of 2021, EKPA confirmed a partnership agreement with one of the two registries, the American Kunekune Pig Society (AKKPS) to offer educational events, virtual shows, and other offerings to AKKPS members at a discounted price (AKKPS currently has a membership of over 1000 farms). This partnership has allowed for two volunteer-run organizations to resource manage more efficiently while expanding educational offerings to more farmers. In October of 2021, the organizations held the largest virtual Kunekune show and educational conference to date, attracting close to 200 entries and 26 farm sponsors. 
  • Based on the process of running the Charcuterie Trial we have reached the following conclusions with regards to the scale and scope of potential cooperative models going forward.

    • What we don't think will work
      • It is not financially feasible for an entity like KPPA, a small non-profit, volunteer-run organization to coordinate and manage and sell cooperatively produced products on a small scale (15-50 hogs). Running even very small batches (7-8 hogs per batch) as we did in the trial requires a tremendous amount of time invested in transport, logistics, marketing, and sales, all of which are done by unpaid volunteers. Recouping costs, even without accounting for the time spent by the organization, requires that virtually all products be sold at full retail price, making the consideration of wholesale channels untenable. While this model works out well for the farmer, who is paid a premium for their hogs, has limited sales/marketing responsibility, and has the opportunity to purchase the finished product at a discount for resale, the organization carries an unreasonable burden of managing the rest of the process and without earning a meaningful return. 
      • Moving to a slightly larger scale than the trial (60-200 hogs) would require a major investment in overhead, as it would be completely impossible for a volunteer-run organization to manage that level of inventory without paid employees and a location to store products. While the availability of products would be exponentially larger, and the possibility of selling in quantity via the wholesale channel more realistic, the margins would run extremely thin and likely never enough to cover the high costs of labor, rental space, insurance, etc.
      • We did not run any models at a very large (500-1000+) scale because the practicality of sourcing that quantity of Kunekune pigs while still paying farmers an above-average market price (one of our main goals) is beyond reasonable consideration.
    • What we think CAN work

      • Following the same framework and process of our trial, a self-organized group of 5-7 Kunekune farmers COULD produce a charcuterie product or products on a small scale, bring it to market, and earn a profit. The responsibility of the upfront expenses, logistics, marketing, and sales would be shared among the farmers, as would the profits. KPPA would still have a role in this model, as a consulting organization and certifying body that would offer cooperating farmers guidance on the framework/process of producing charcuterie, assistance in the USDA label approval process, and marketing support via the KPPA certification program. For all of these services, KPPA would receive fees that would help sustain the organization.
        • Farmers in this scenario still benefit in the following ways:
          • Farmers are able to create a further-processed product that is typically difficult for an individual small-scale farmer to produce
          • Farmers are able to share in the upfront costs, logistics and marketing/sales responsibilities of moving products to market
          • Farmers may be able to expand into wholesale market channels
        • EXAMPLE: (using same numbers from our trial)
          • 3 farmers pool 7 pigs totalling 1202 lbs total live weight.
          • This meat is processed into 691 salamis for a total direct cost of $4,489. (Direct costs only include 2 levels of processing, transport, and marketing)
          • Cost per farmer assuming equal input from 3 farmers: $1,496.
          • Each farmer receives 230 salamis (assuming equal input)
          • Potential GROSS Revenue for each farmer @ Retail: $4,600
          • Potential GROSS Revenue for each farmer @ Wholesale: $3,450
          • Potential NET Profit per Farmer @ Retail: $3,104  (net profit margin 67.48%)
          • Potential NET Profit per Farmer @ Wholesale: $1,954  (net profit margin 56.6%)
          THE CONCEPT IS THAT WHILE $4,500 AND SEVEN MARKET-WEIGHT HOGS MIGHT BE A LOT FOR AN INDIVIDUAL SMALL-SCALE KUNEKUNE FARMER TO INVEST IN UPFRONT COSTS FOR A PRODUCT, AN INVESTMENT OF $1,400 AND 2-3 HOGS COULD BE MORE FEASIBLE, AND STILL RESULT IN THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE A PRODUCT THAT HAS A HIGH NET PROFIT MARGIN.
Research conclusions:
  • There is a steadily growing interest in raising Kunekune pigs for meat, and there are ways for small-scale Kunekune farmers to work cooperatively to create new products and reach new markets. Nearly extinct less than 50 years ago, the Kunekune pig is now a thriving breed that offers many benefits to a small-scale farmer looking to produce high-quality niche pork. When working cooperatively with 5-6 other small farms, a Kunekune pork producer can create next-level processed products that offer a profitable return on investment and access to new market channels. The model of small-scale cooperation to produce next-level processed products could be replicated using other breeds and species to create other high-end niche products. 

  • EKPA (Empire Kunekune Pig Association) is well seated to continue to lead educational efforts in teaching farmers about raising Kunekune pigs for meat. While the organization experienced leadership changes in the middle of 2021, including the resignation of myself (Jenn Bassman) as President of the organization, there have been a number of enthusiastic farmers who have stepped up and shown interest in taking on leadership roles. The board has established a solid process for elections and will bring on several new members in early 2022. With its new partnership with AKKPS, one of the two breed registries, a two-year history of providing well-researched, well-received, and well-attended educational programming and virtual shows, a growing membership community of farms, and a true dedication to the breed, EKPA is on a path for continued success.
  • KPPA (Kunekune Pork Producers Association) has a clear role in further establishing Kunekune as premium pork. KPPA is best suited to be a certifying entity and consulting body that can offer quality assurance, marketing support, guidance in cooperative production, and USDA label certification assistance. To become a fully realized, operational organization it is recommended that KPPA consider establishing its own Board of Directors, by-laws, and 501c3 designation, as the capacity of the EKPA board to manage both organizations is unrealistic. 
Participation Summary
7 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

9 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
13 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

205 Farmers
45 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

Kunekune 101: On farm workshop at Bel Canto Farm on April 27.

An educational conference and hands-on workshop focused on herd health care, confirmation, and breeding. On Saturday, April 27th, we were joined by guest speaker Mary C. Smith, DVM at Cornell University, and others for this full day of education focused on the Kunekune Pig.

We had 14 farmers attend this event from NY, PA and MD. 

Returned feedback surveys indicated a high level of satisfaction with the event and interest other events covering topics including: vaccinations, feed, bloodline traits, history of KuneKune, how to house them, how to market them, and more about the co-op

Attendees at Kunekune 101, April 2019
Attendees at Kunekune 101, April 2019
Attendees at Kunekune101
Attendees at Kunekune101, April 2019
Dr. Mary Smith
Dr. Mary Smith demonstrating how to do a necropsy at Kunekune 101

 

Choosing a Processor • Sunday, February 16, 4-6pm
How do you find a processor that will work with your niche pig for your niche market?

 

Retailing Niche Pork…Ask a Butcher! • Sunday, February 23, 6-7:30 pm
Once we find a great processor how do we find a great market?

 

Alternative Farm Management During COVID • Thursday, May 7, 7:30-8:30pm EST

Has COVID affected your farm? This will be a casual discussion open to all attendees. Share some 'Alternative Models to the Local Food System' you might have incorporated during this crisis. What is working, what is not. Let's brainstorm, let's support each other, and let's be successful together. FREE.

WEBINAR: KUNEKUNE NUTRITION 101: FEED MANAGEMENT FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH

Saturday, May 23 • 10:30am - 12:00 pm EST Being a landrace breed, giving the Kunekune pig exactly what they need in their diet is of utmost importance. Do Kunekune need pasture? When should supplementation be done? These questions along with discussion around basic nutrient and ingredients needed in their diets will be discussed. Industry leading pork producers from the Kunekune Pork Producers Association and the EKPA will discuss pasture management techniques, assessing forage quality, and choosing supplements along with the difference in nutrients needed in young pigs, a meat herd, and breeding stock. Want to know some proven methods? Tune in to find out more and get all of your questions answered during the Q&A time! 

WEBINAR: SHOWMANSHIP 101

Saturday, April 3, 2021, 2:00 pm EST
Join Ryan Harrell for a Showmanship/Video tutorial webinar. Learn all about what to do and what not to do when entering a showmanship class either in person or virtually. Just in time to get ready for the EKPA Spring Classic.

WEBINAR: FARROWING - THE BASICS, TROUBLESHOOTING & TROUBLESHOOTING

Saturday, March 20, 2021, 7:00 pm EST

WEBINAR: THE FUNDAMENTALS OF KUNEKUNE JUDGING AND SELECTION

Saturday, February 20, 1:00 PM EST • presenter Judge Ryan Harrell

Join us for a webinar with Judge Ryan Harrell. He will walk us through conformational traits to breed for and how to identify them in a show ring! 

ZOOM CHATS

Join us for casual 1-hour discussions on timely topics related to raising KuneKunes!

Farrowing FAQs • Saturday, June 13, 2021, 7:30pm - 8:30pm EST Let's talk all things farrowing! This will be a casual discussion open to all attendees. We'll talk about our farrowing methods, and you share yours! What do you struggle with and what have you nailed down? Let's chat!

 


EDUCATIONAL & OUTREACH MATERIALS

USDA LABELING GUIDELINES - available to webinar attendees and on the EKPA member website

Pre Farm Check list - available on EKPA member website

KPPA - Certified 100% Kunekune Pork Participation Guidelines - available on EKPA member website

EKPA Annual Meeting - shared with members during our annual meeting presentation and posted on the EKPA member website

NOFA - NY Kunekune Presentation - shared with attendees at NOFA-NY winter conference

Swine Nutrition Info Graphic - shared on social media, with the Cornell University Livestock Program Work Team, on EKPA website, in webinars on Swine Nutrition and Raising Pastured Pigs

 

Learning Outcomes

8 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:
  • Second-Level Processing - Pork Products - increased knowledge and understanding of processes, regulations, labeling rules
  • Wholesale & Retail Marketing/Sales - increased knowledge and understanding of margins, wholesale channels, sales logistics
  • Presenting/Teaching/Lecturing - practice and increased experience leading webinars, hosting online conversations, developing presentations
  • Website/Social Media Skills - increased skills and competence in website design, content management, social media management

Project Outcomes

10 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
5 Grants applied for that built upon this project
2 Grants received that built upon this project
$5,100.00 Dollar amount of grants received that built upon this project
8 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:
 
Throughout the course of this project the team has gained significant experience in the following areas:
  • Second-Level Processing - Pork Products - increased knowledge and understanding of processes, regulations, labeling rules
  • Wholesale & Retail Marketing/Sales - increased knowledge and understanding of margins, wholesale channels, sales logistics
  • Presenting/Teaching/Lecturing - practice and increased experience leading webinars, hosting online conversations, developing presentations
  • Website/Social Media Skills - increased skills and competence in website design, content management, social media management

Additionally - by working as a team, sharing our ideas, thoughts, feedback, successes, and failures the writer believes that all of the participating farms have:

  • Improved animal welfare practices on the farm:  including improved sheltering and pasturing, better farrowing techniques, increased knowledge and understanding regarding the uses of medications and vaccinations.
  • Improved resilience: by sharing resources, knowledge, experience, and labor/workloads with each other.
  • Improved reputation within the Kunekune community: All participating farms seem to be well known and well regarded within the Kunekune community and looked to for their expertise and as mentors. Most have seen increased sales in breeding stock and meat animals.
Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Key Successes: 

  • Throughout an incredibly challenging time of uncertainty and turmoil in the world, we were able to be flexible and strategic and pivot our project in a way that still delivered a meaningful and insightful outcome. While the outcome was not what we anticipated at the beginning, we still discovered that the organization we set out to create (Kunekune Pork Producers Association) can have a role in aiding Kunekune pig farmers in working collaboratively to reach new market channels. 
  • We created a product that has been highly praised by those that have purchased it, and one that none of our participants (except for one) would have otherwise been able to produce as individual farms. We have a process and model now that other self-organized groups of other cooperating farmers can use to produce similar products to sell.
  • We created an educational organization (Empire Kunekune Pig Association) to fill a need in the Kunekune community that offers learning opportunities for farmers who are just beginning or wanting to advance their knowledge about raising Kunekune pigs for meat. That organization has grown substantially since 2019 and now has a strong partnership with the American Kunekune Pig Society Breed Registry that will solidify its role as educator for Kunekune farmers. 

Challenges

  • The biggest challenge, of course, was the global pandemic of COVID-19 which entirely derailed our original plan of marketing whole hogs and retail cuts to the high-end restaurant and butcher shop market. This required a complete pivot to consider other creative ways farmers could collaborate and create products together that would be difficult to do as individuals. We were unable to complete any farm certifications for our "100% Certified Kunekune Pork" program due to not being able to safely travel and visit farms.
  • As farmers and individuals with other jobs, families, etc. we ran into challenges managing the logistics of the production process. Finding the time to actively market and sell products on top of all of the other responsibilities of life and running the two organizations (EKPA and KPPA) was incredibly difficult, and inventory remains that we hoped would already be sold. We recognized that KPPA simply didn't have the capacity to manage the production process in the way we had anticipated.

Future Work

  • In order for KPPA to be fully realized and apply what we have learned from our study, it is clear that it would need to become it's own 501c3 with a separated Board of Directors and interested volunteers and members, as EKPA does not have the capacity to further advance the work of KPPA. At this time it is unclear if there is enough in the way of human resources to begin this process imminently or if it will be some time before progress happens. Once it does, the following items would be priorities:
    • Formalizing the 501c3 status, bylaws, board of directors, and organizational structure
    • Formalizing all of the services offered and fee structure required by KPPA. Our working model includes: 
      • Certification to produce meat products under the trademarked label "100% Certified Kunekune Pork"
      • Providing marketing materials and resources for anyone participating in the Certified Kunekune Pork Program, and working to advance the awareness generally of Certified Kunekune Pork
      • Offering Consultation and guidance for self-organized groups of farmers wishing to cooperatively produce products
      • Offering Consultation and guidance for anyone looking to get USDA approval for their label claims
  • Generally, it could be said that the model of self-organized small groups working together to produce next-level processed meat products could be successful with many other types of niche meat animals. It would be of interest to this farmer to see the model tested in other breeds and species. 

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.