Direct Marketing Meat

by Pat Farquhar

This winter I happened to see a flyer advertising a seminar for Direct Marketing of Meat.  My husband and I have been raising goats for 6 years and have never thought about marketing our meat directly. All our meat goats are shipped live to Cookstown or to the livestock auction in Winnipeg. We have butchered a few goats for our own consumption but never directly for the consumer. I was interested in what steps would be needed to sell our meat closer to home.

The seminar was given by Diane Roberts, a Livestock Product Development Specialist and Mavis McPhail a Food & Agri-Fibre Specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI).
I quickly realized that there are a lot of questions to ask of yourself before you start selling your product. First you must ask yourself who will be your clientele? Are you looking to sell to the local community? Retail shops? Restaurants? Will you be selling within the Province? Diane spoke about marketing plans, business plans and feasibility studies. All of these are important if you want your business to thrive. If you find that there is sufficient interest in your product then you want to be assured that you have access to supply.

Once you have decided whom you would be selling to, determine whether you need a provincial abattoir or a federal one. The differences between federal and provincial requirements tend to be building construction standards and required food safety programs. Both facilities do ante and post mortem inspections, and have the same standards for the meat products, sanitation and humane slaughter of animals. Your product must be federally inspected if it is to be sold in another province or country. Also, some hospitals and grocery stores may require federal inspection.

The most inexpensive way to sell red meat, with the least amount of red tape, which is legal, would be for a producer to sell a goat, take it to an abattoir and have it inspected, slaughtered, processed, cut and wrapped with the customer picking it up at the abattoir. The producer requires no permit as the producer is not handling nor processing the meat. If the producer were to pick up the pre-sold meat and deliver it sanitarily and safely to the customer directly from the abattoir, then no additional permit would be required.

If a producer wants to store it, or sell it on his premises then a permit is required. If the producer wants to sell the meat door to door or from a parking lot then they must register, secure a permit and provide appropriate refrigeration. They also must have a permitted storage facility for the meat that is not sold. There may also be local license fees or municipal requirements for itinerant sales. All rules and regulations regarding permits, storage, labeling etc. can be found by contacting your local MAFRI GO Office.

The second part of the seminar was about the actual marketing of meat. You must do your homework first and find out who your consumers are and what they want in meat products.
It was interesting to see that the consumer has perceptions of how healthy different meats are. The reality is that chevon is healthy, tasty and low in fat, but if consumers think that it is a tough, unpalatable meat then it will be much harder to sell your product. I learned how important it is to know yourself, your operation, your customer and your competition. We talked about the direct marketing “advantages” and “disadvantages” for farmers in this business as well as the best ways to reach your customer and keep him informed. A quote that stayed with me was, ”A good product with great marketing beats a great product with poor marketing everytime.”
Whether you choose to market your goats directly or ship them to the livestock auction, marketing is important to the success of your farm business. How are you going to increase your marketing skills?