Educating Consumers About Local, Sustainable Produced Meat
The goal of this project was to educate consumers in Madison, Wisconsin, about the way meat is produced using sustainable agriculture practices. The premise was that consumers who are thus informed would, for a variety of reasons, be interested in purchasing meat directly from local meat producers who raise their animals using sustainable agriculture practices.
This project helped eight local farmers, none of whom individually could make sufficient consumer contacts, to do so collectively in a direct marketing group formally calling themselves Healthy Meats! (HM!) During the year, we assisted the development of direct markets for local
owner-operated farms and increased local support for buying sustainably raised meat. We accomplished these goals by generating media articles, conducting consumer events, developing a brochure and establishing a booth at the Dane County Farmers Market.
Generating media attention was an effective way of making our presence known in the Madison area. We published several articles in Madison’s mainstream press and several others in newsletters and weeklies. While we were successful at generating news articles, our efforts did not result in a dramatic increase in sales. Articles published in newsletters, specifically a home schooling newsletter, and weeklies generated more sales and interest than did our mainstream press articles. We also penetrated local and public radio markets, achieving poor results.
The coordinator developed a brochure that included the names and contact information of the farmers involved in the project, as well as the various meats for sale and their farming philosophy. The brochure was made available at all HM! events and was mailed to interested consumers after media hits and public presentations. While the brochure did a great job of describing the production methods of individual farmers, it failed to generate the number of sales we thought it would. One reason may be that HM! farmers decided early on not to include prices in the brochure so as not to compete with each other, which may have failed to give consumers the information they needed to call the farmers directly.
Other barriers to sales were the perception of the need to buy large quantities, the desire to see the meat and the farmer before they purchase an item, and general questions regarding food safety. Consumer events were a very effective way of familiarizing the public with HM! Meat tastings, chef demonstrations and a hamburger stand all helped create interest. Perhaps the most compelling example of the effectiveness of consumer events was a food festival organized by
our organizer and REAP, a local food group. The famous chef Odessa Piper, also a member of Chefs Collaborative 2000, gave an hour demonstration on preparing and cooking HM! meat. Two hundred and fifty brochures were handed out that day.
Ultimately, two of the eight farmers participating in the project sold completely out of their inventory by early November. They attribute their success primarily to their presence at the Dane County Farmers Market, as well as their participation in the HM! effort. While many of the
farmers have seen and increase in calls and an increase in recent months, their success has been anything but instantaneous and has demanded much persistence, patience and hard work.