Marketing Meat Animals Directly to Consumers

Selling directly to the consumer may significantly increase profits and prices above those received in conventional markets.
There are several options for direct marketing of livestock.

There are several options for direct marketing of livestock.

Small-scale operators and part-time producers, in particular, have the opportunity to market additional services or special aspects of their product and realize significant price premiums. Four types of activity are generally considered as direct marketing of livestock:

  • Selling directly to a packer/buyer on a live or grade and yield basis. This is the textbook type of marketing referred to as direct marketing in many market summaries and reports.
  • Setting up a slaughter facility and merchandising carcasses or retail cuts directly to the consumer.
  • Selling the live animal to the consumer who has the responsibility of making slaughter arrangements.
  • Selling all or part of the carcass to the consumer after slaughter by an established butcher shop. This option, often referred to as producing for the freezer trade, is the primary focus of this publication.

The following discussion covers some advantages of this practice in relation to other selling methods.

By selling directly to the consumer, the producer sets the price and doesn’t experience the price discrimination generally encountered when selling small groups of animals.

Small-scale producers can market animals to their own specifications without the large discounts experienced in markets involving packers/buyers.

A combination of higher selling prices, no sales company or buyer commissions, and lower purchase prices can help improve profitability.

By setting their own price and standards for the number fed and sold, market weight, and amount of finish, producers may know the market price prior to selling and perhaps even prior to purchasing or producing the feeder animals.

Many areas of the northeast have a very large population of consumers. You need to identify your potential customers and learn about their needs. Recent consumer surveys show some current consumer needs and concerns are:

Once you have identified your market, it is much easier to decide what to produce. While the breed, finish, weight, or type of animal may vary with your personal preference, these factors influence other decisions.

Finding the right meat plant to process your meat is generally the most important key to your success. In effect, you form a partnership and place your trust and reputation in the hands of someone else. In turn, your customers put complete trust in both of you; first-time customers are buying sight-unseen. Here are some of the qualities to look for:

Consider the following factors when making a decision on what you will sell and how you will sell to your customer.

A variety of pricing methods and factors should be considered. Be aware of current local prices of other producers and retailers, but remember that you are selling more than just a commodity. Other services and aspects of your product might include:

Because a quarter or side of beef represents a sizable investment for most families, you may be required to wait for your money. Perhaps you want to avoid payment delays.

Remember that customers make a business. A good philosophy is that the customer is always right.

Table 1. Worksheet for estimating the retail value of a beef side (300 lbs.)

Table 2. Worksheet for Estimating the Retail Value of a Lamb Carcass (55 lb.)

Table 3. Worksheet for Estimating the Retail Value of a Pork Carcass (165 lb. )