Selling meat direct: 5 sales channels for farmers

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7-month-old Suffolk Ram Lamb, hog, goat, chicken, beef cattle and turkey
Top row (L-R): 7 month old Suffolk Ram Lamb; hog via Wikimedia Commons; goat at Dickie Bird Farm. Bottom row (L-R): Chicken at Dickie Bird Farm, beef cow via CSIRO Science and turkey at Dickie Bird Farm.

Selling meat direct increases farm profits by cutting out the middleman and retaining a larger percent of product revenue. It achieves premium prices for fresh, natural, and locally produced products.

Selling meat direct allows farmers to speak directly to our target markets. It gives us the pleasure of providing the highest-quality and freshest meat available to people who truly appreciate our hard work.

5 direct sales channels

The 5 most popular channels for direct meat sales are farmers markets, farm stands, buying clubs, on-the-hoof sales, and meat subscriptions/ community supported agriculture (CSA).

1 Farmers markets are a collection of direct marketing farms that set-up to sell in a central location. According to the Economic Research Service, the number of farmers markets in American towns and cities has more than doubled over the last 10 years, likely due to increased demand for locally produced foods (Number of U.S. farmers markets continues to rise, Aug 2014).

Most cities have at least one seasonal farmers market. Year-round farmers markets are becoming more common. A new wave of farmers markets at hospitals, libraries, and other institutions, offer farmers and customers additional opportunities to connect.

2 Towns without the organizational capacity to support a farmers market may host independent farm stands to make fresh foods available to the public.

Farmers markets and stands benefit farmers by providing a prime setting for sharing your farm’s principles and practices, building relationships in your community, and educating customers about agricultural production.

Farmers markets and stands are a solution for shoppers who wish to buy meat direct, but lack freezer space to do so. Customers who do not want to buy a large share of meat can purchase a manageable amount at the farmers market or stand. Customers can handpick selections to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences.

3
Buying clubs
are groups of consumers that buy large quantities of product direct from farmers, and split among members. A club can be as small as a few families that collectively purchase a whole hog, or a large group of members with a designated leader and high-tech online ordering system.

Buying clubs benefit farmers by allowing them to unload a large amount of farm fresh food with less time and labor than selling at farmers markets. Buying clubs benefit customers by giving them the power to buy farm fresh food at wholesale prices.

4
On-the-hoof sales
are when customers make advance arrangements to buy a whole, half, or quarter animal from a farmer. When the animal reaches market weight, it is slaughtered and processed at a fully inspected facility or custom processor. The customer works out desired cuts and packaging with the processor.

On-the-hoof sales are the most cost-effective way for farmers to sell meat direct to customers. Additionally, selling an animal in its entirety guarantees farmers won’t be overstocked or short select cuts. Customers benefit by getting a large volume and wide selection of meat cuts at the very best price.

5 Meat subscriptions/Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are when customers pre-buy a share of food direct from the farmer. In the world of produce CSAs, customers enjoy a regular share of farm fresh fruits and veges throughout the season. Meat subscriptions work the same way, providing a steady supply of meat over a period of time.

Meat subscriptions are pre-sales that help farmers mitigate the risk of seasonal production and sales. They offer farmers an opportunity to partner with fellow producers and offer a wider variety of farm fresh food per share.

Meat subscriptions work well for customers who enjoy buying meat direct, but lack freezer space or feel overwhelmed receiving a large amount of meat at one time.

Free listings for direct marketing farms

  • The Agricultural Marketing Service USDA maintains Local Foods Directories online
  • List on Local Harvest
  • List on Eat Wild
  • Call your county agricultural extension office and ask about local foods promotion. Many counties have special initiatives to help farmers get the word out.

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