There’s growing interest from livestock producers in selling beef directly to the consumer and from consumers who would like to purchase meat locally.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture hosted webinars the week of Jan. 4 to help producers in starting a farm-to-fork business.
First, it’s recommended to select a beef company name different from your ranch business.
“You could keep the name separate, usually including your last name, followed by ‘Meat Company’ so people in the area recognize your name as the seller. Or, you could select a company name like ours, as a brand that could be expanded on, or sold in the future,” said webinar speaker Rachel Cutrer.
Cutrer co-owns Brahman Country Beef in Wharton, Texas, with her husband Brandon. They sell their grass-fed, grain finished, hormone-free beef raised on their ranch.
“I would love to have our beef in a major retail store, so we tied a name that’s not tied to my or our last name, in case we wanted to expand," Cutrer said.
Their ranch name is separate. She and her husband named their ranch B.R. Cutrer Inc. Brahman Ranch.
Branding your meat could include a logo with your marketing and a consistent set of colors, Cutrer suggested. Sellers could package some promotional items such as freezer magnets or a postcard in all their orders, which Cutrer likes to do.
“Interestingly, some people start out thinking, ‘I’m going to sell my beef to the world,’ but you’re probably not. Focus on a small group of your customers,” said Cutrer, who offered social media marketing, consumer insights and direct-to-consumer business model concepts.
She used the philosophy of online vacation rental company Airbnb as an example. “It’s better to have 100 people who love Airbnb, Inc., rather than many more who somewhat like them.”
“So, focus your principles on a small group of people who really will love you, and then they tell their friends, and they tell theirs, etc.,” Cutrer said.
When selling locally like she does, most customers are within a 15-20 mile radius.
In addition to reaching potential customers through community groups, church organizations and schools, Cutrer recommends using a Facebook business page separate from a personal Facebook page. She also likes the app Canva, which is helpful on a cellphone to whip up a quick advertisement. Another resource, www.leadpages.com or another consumer-focused marketing model.
“Sometimes, when sales were slow, I advertised in our local newspaper, because there might be a demographic that’s not on Facebook,” she said.
Beef can be marketed online at Shopify or an online store with shipping, sold at retail stores, farmers markets or direct to restaurants and other food service establishments. Another meat selling option is erecting a small stand-alone building on the property and posting a sign with available hours.
After initially dropping-off beef orders in many different directions, Cutrer was relieved to find TimeTrade software which enables buyers to pay with a credit card online. After the order is complete, an email moves them to Step 2, selecting a date and time to pick up their order.
When it comes to tracking beef sales, the Cutrers perfer Quick Books online with a file separate from their farm. It has an app that allows you to pull up an invoice if visiting a client at a ranch or in a pasture.
Since many meat processors became booked once the coronavirus pandemic hit, Cutrer advises patience in the beginning.
“We just took whatever processing dates we could get in the early stages,” she said.
She sold steers live and also let buyers purchase where they could process it. Now, she’s booked for the year and appreciates scheduling in with any cancellations.
Know your product, Cutrer recommends, because although customers typically know how to cook a ribeye and ground beef, they often ask questions about other beef cuts, recipes and food handling.
To set your price, if your product is not available locally, yours is worth more than the average price by weight.
When the Cutrers ship their meat, they package it in 12 x12 x12 box with an insulated box liner, one cold pack for every three pounds of beef, and UPS ground shipping with guaranteed quality.
The point is to make a greater profit than by selling the steer at the auction barn, but also to enjoy selling the beef that you’re proud to raise.
As Cutrer concluded, “It’s a very rewarding business to be in.”
Some resources for selling direct
For wholesale beef pricing: www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com
For more information on Cutrer’s operation: https://brahmancountrybeef.com/
Amy Hadachek is a freelance journalist, a two-time Emmy Award winning meteorologist and a storm chaser who earned her NWA and AMS Broadcast Meteorology Seals of Approval. She and her husband live on a diversified farm in Kansas. Reach her at email@example.com.