The overarching goal of this project was to increase freezer trade sales of livestock through the development of a website and multiple educational activities. The “Meat Suite” is the website that resulted from this project (www.meatsuite.com). “The Meat Suite” provides a high visibility platform for producers to sell meat products. We believe that “freezer trade” is one of the best performing marketing channels for both the consumer and producer. The website allows consumers to search by location or product in an effort to find a product that meets their needs and preferences.
The local food movement is roaring through upstate New York like a bullet train and local livestock producers are struggling to take full advantage of the momentum. Specifically, local meats are getting attention as a “second wave” of local foods.
Livestock producers face several challenges when it comes to tapping into the local meats movement. First and foremost they have limited access to USDA inspected facilities. In order for them to sell individual “cuts” (such as to farmstands and/or farmers’ markets, etc…), animals must be processed at a USDA inspected facility. There are few USDA inspected facilities available to local farmers and those that are have waiting lists booked months in advance (sometimes over a year).
Farms that are able to sell at farmers’ markets and farm stands struggle to keep up with the labor and inventory management demands of selling by the cut. Selling at farmers’ markets poses other challenges as well, such as the need to keep product frozen. Many farmers are forced to rely on non-inspected “custom” plants which only affords them the ability to sell “freezer trade” (the sale of whole, halves, and quarters of animals), limiting marketing options.
Given the initial results of the SARE funded project “Development of a Marketing Channel Assessment Tool for Livestock” we believe that “freezer trade” is one of the best performing channels for both the consumer and producer.
Increasing freezer trade sales has several advantages for producers:
• Opportunity to expand sales in a top performing marketing channel.
• Reduced dependence on USDA inspected plants.
• Eliminate the need for farm-level inventory management of cuts.
• Fewer marketing hours compared to other direct marketing channels, resulting in a higher profit per hour of marketing labor.
• Potential for good customer loyalty and repeat business.
• Reduces need to stage supply of finished animals over a longer period.
Increasing freezer trade has several advantages for consumers:
• They get a range of cuts.
• It is typically more affordable than the grocery store.
• Has all the advantages of buying local.
• They know their producers.
• They receive delicious and healthful product.
The goals of our project were:
1.) Determine the buying/selling preferences of producers and consumers as well as the barriers each group identifies for freezer trade.
2.) Educate the public about how and where to purchase local meats.
3.) Develop a website that will allow consumers to view a profile of area farms and choose the one that meets their needs and desires best so that they may purchase local meats directly from farmers.
4.) Train farmers on the techniques of differentiation and positioning of their products along with additional marketing skills. These skills will influence each farms’ presence on the website along with communication with and sales to consumers.
Our first two goals of surveying producers and consumers were accomplished. The website development goal was also accomplished although the development and design “tweaking” took much longer than anticipated. The PI’s have worked primarily in their 6 county region to recruit and promote the Meat Suite; a larger, broader promotion effort is planned for summer 2013.
The educational component goal for consumers was partially met. Attendance was low with some of the classes cancelled. The PI’s are reevaluating how and where to deliver the “How to buy local” information to consumers.
Cornell Cooperative Extension surveyed over 200 households to determine the primary barriers for consumers buying meat in bulk (quarters, halves). The survey identified consumers’ buying preferences, shopping habits, and interest in buying locally raised meats.
A second survey was completed by 45 local meat producers. It determined current marketing channel utilization, (freezer trade, meat CSA, farmers’ market, etc) and asked producers about their marketing preferences as well as perceived barriers to the freezer trade channel.
Cornell Cooperative Extension utilized the information from both survey sets to develop a presentation for potential consumers titled “How to buy local meats”. The presentation was given three times. Three other classes were scheduled but cancelled due to low registration. As a result, Kerri Bartlett, Project Leader, wrote an article for consumers on how to buy local meats. The article was published in the Corning Leader Newspaper, which has a readership of 13,585. Kerri Bartlett and Matt LeRoux are revisiting how to disseminate the “How to buy local meat” class information and looking at different venues to educate the public on how to buy local meats.
The Meat Suite website was developed and published. The website benefits both consumers and local farmers by facilitating sales of freezer trade meats. Consumers can shop and compare farms by species, product range, price, seasonality, product description, location, etc…. The website emphasizes farm level identity and consumer education. Consumers who use the website to purchase meat receive locally produced beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry while supporting local farmers and butchers. Participation in the website will be free to producers the first year, after that a minimal sales commission will fund the website maintenance.
The consumer survey to determine the primary barriers to buying local meats was completed by 200 households. The results are as follows:
• The primary barrier to buying meat in bulk is the fact that most people just don’t feel they need that much meat. They live alone, have small families, don’t want to eat so much meat, etc.
• However, closely following the demand issue is lack of freezer space. About 1 in 4 people cited this as a reason they don’t buy meat in bulk.
• Almost 70% of people believe local meat is more expensive than grocery store meat, and about the same percentage would consider buying in bulk if it were more affordable. Interestingly, the number one reason people like buying in bulk is price.
The producer survey was completed by 42 farmers in a six county region. The results are:
• Primary barrier/challenge for current & additional sales is finding customers
• Close second is consumer preference/consumers lack of knowledge
• Time cited by many for limiting additional sales
The Meat Suite website has been developed. Currently 25 farms are listed on the website. The website development took much longer than anticipated by the project leaders and therefore populating the site with farms was delayed. The PI’s have worked primarily in their 6 county region to recruit and promote the Meat Suite, a larger, broader promotion effort is planned for summer 2013.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
The overarching goal of this project was to develop a website that allows consumers to view a profile of area farms and choose the one that meets their needs and preferences best so that they may purchase local meats directly from farmers. This goal was accomplished through the development and publishing of the MeatSuite Website (www.meatsuite.com ). Post cards, pens, and a large banner were designed with the MeatSuite logo to increase consumer awareness of the website.