Increasing freezer-trade sales for livestock producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,631.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Kerri Bartlett

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, rabbits, swine, sheep


  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, e-commerce, market study

    Proposal abstract:

    Livestock producers face several challenges when it comes to tapping into the local meats movement. 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. 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. Cornell Cooperative Extension intends to expand freezer trade sales for livestock farmers through consumer education, marketing classes for producers, and the development of a website that will facilitate freezer trade sales. To accomplish this we will collect survey data to investigate consumer and producer preferences, provide consumer education on the benefits of buying local meats in bulk, and educate and equip producers on the benefits of freezer trade marketing, along with the skills to better market their product. In addition, we will create a website, “The Meat Suite” to provide a high visibility platform for producers in a six county region to reach new consumers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Anecdotal and informal data collection have shown that the primary barriers preventing consumers from buying meat in bulk (quarters, halves) are lack of freezer space, initial upfront cost (if needing to buy a freezer and the meat at the same time), lack of knowledge of local producers, their claims and practices, lack of knowledge on how to prepare various cuts of meat, and smaller size of family/household. Cornell Cooperative Extension will conduct a formal survey of 200 households to determine the primary barriers for consumers. Cornell Cooperative Extension staff will develop a consumer survey in order to identify consumers’ buying preferences, shopping habits, and interest in buying locally raised meats. In addition the survey will determine the primary barriers to purchasing locally raised meats.

    A second survey will be developed for local meat producers. It will include questions on marketing channel utilization, (freezer trade, meat CSA, farmers’ market, etc) and ask producers about their marketing preferences as well as perceived barriers to the freezer trade channel. Cornell Cooperative Extension staff will survey 40 producers in the 6 county region. Survey results will inform next steps, including consumer education efforts and the development of the meat locker and Meat Suite website concepts.

    Cornell Cooperative Extension will utilize the information from both survey sets to develop a presentation for potential consumers titled “How to buy local meats”. The presentation will be given in a minimum of 4 locations (Ithaca, Bath, Corning, and Watkins Glen). The presentation will address consumer barriers and trepidations to purchasing local meats. The goal will be to educate at least 80 households. Of note, in May 2009 CCE-Tompkins offered such a class as a test, and 65 people attended with positive feedback.

    We will develop a website called the “Meat Suite” that will benefit both consumers and local farmers by facilitating sales of freezer trade meats. The site will feature profiles of local farms and their products. Consumers can shop and compare farms by species, product range, price, seasonality, product description, location, etc…. The website will be somewhat similar to the Philadelphia CowShare site ( which allows individual customers to buy high quality, local beef by the quarter and half, however ours will have much more emphasis on farm level identity and consumer education. The CCE website will only facilitate sales of meat, not broker or actually sell product. Consumers who use the website to purchase meat will receive locally produced beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry while supporting local farmers and butchers. Additionally the website provides access to local meats to a broader population including those who may not have easy access to farms and farmers' markets. In addition to making locally grown meats more accessible, Cornell Cooperative Extension can facilitate the use of EBT (electronic benefits transfer) payments for consumers who wish to use their foodstamp benefits to purchase meats direct from farmers. Participation in the website will be free to producers the first year, after that a minimal sales commission will fund the website maintenance.

    Finally, CCE will offer its Strategic Marketing series of workshops to teach the basics of strategic marketing, including how to identify a target market and focus a farm’s marketing efforts. The class will teach livestock farms how to position and differentiate their farm and products on the Meat Suite website as well as in their own materials. Participating farms also learn how to choose the marketing channels that best serve their farm. The series has already been developed and recorded sessions can be found at:

    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.