• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

A question for Paul - Or anyone else - How to get initial client base with organic pigs

 
Ollie Taylor
Posts: 19
Location: Brisbane, QLD, Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey there

I think this is my first post so go easy! I hope i've posted in the right forum, but I do realise this is also related to business/clients/money stuff, so sorry if it is in the wrong place.

I've recently listened to paul's podcast number 22, on Raising Pigs.

In that podcast, they talk about when paul was running his farm, he was raising hogs on foraged food/purely organic food, and then selling the meat to his people locally. The buyers could not eat store-bought pork products as it made them sick, but could eat the pork that paul was supplying and would then pay higher prices for it (assumingly as the meat was raised completely organically. so it reduced any chance of allergic reactions or problems with nasty stuff in the meat).

Now my question is this - How did Paul get the initial interest into that hog meat? Was it billed as just organic meat, or as a 'You won't get sick!' meat? I could not find it mentioned how these people either were told/found out about this meat, and subsequently were happy to pay high prices for it, let alone that it would not cause them problems when eating.

I want to do something similar in the near future with my future farm, but I want to be able to get my head around some techniques to advertise such meat products to people who want to buy it, or even find out that people come to you! It would be awful IMO if i didnt figure out the right way to sell this meat, and subsequently got paid the same amount as people who were farming hogs in bad ways, with a bad tasting meat.

All the best

Ollie

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ollie Taylor wrote:my question is this - How did Paul get the initial interest into that hog meat? Was it billed as just organic meat, or as a 'You won't get sick!' meat? I could not find it mentioned how these people either were told/found out about this meat, and subsequently were happy to pay high prices for it, let alone that it would not cause them problems when eating.


We have had people tell us the same thing - that pigs fed soy/corn make them sick but that they can eat our pastured pork just fine. I have no idea how true that is. I focus on producing pork with primarily pasture as its food supplemented with dairy. We also grow veggies and fruit that the pigs get although they say it is never enough with 400 of them out in the fields. We get a little spent barley from a local brew pub - wish I could get more. See http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs for more on their diet.

I also have a lot of people who tell us that our pork tastes far better than factory farmed pork or even other pastured pork raised on corn/soy, even Organic. How much of that is genetics, how much is feed and how much is pasturing (management) is not clear. It is clear that all three of these are factors.

Genetics plays a large part in the production, quality and flavor. We've spent a decade selecting and breeding for pigs that thrive in our climate, on our diet with our managed rotational grazing and taste good. It has worked. Every week we do a selection as some pigs have to go to market each Wednesday. Over time only the best of the best are left breeding and producing the next generation. Last year I bought in some new genetics from several farms of several different breeds to cross with ours. Seeing these new breeders and their offspring demonstrated how far we have brought our own herds's genetics. I have years to go working these new lines to bring them up to par.

I focus on presenting what we do:

--- All naturally raised out on pasture fed forages, dairy, veggies, etc and humanely treated. ---

People like that our pigs are bred, born and raised here on our farm. Soon we'll have slaughter, butchering and smoking in our own on-farm USDA/State inspected meat processing facility. That will close the cycle of life all on our farm - customers like that too. One of our catch phrases is "Good Wholesome Food from our Family Farm to your Family's Table."

I mention that we do not use antibiotic feeds, hormones, farrowing or gestation crates. I talk about how we do things. I like to focus primarily on the positive, what we do rather than what we don't do as a general rule but I find I do need to mention the "No this, no that" things too. Keep it very basic. Very factual.

I do not make claims such as "High Omega-3 Fatty Acids!" even though it is probably true since they eat so much pasture nor do I say "Meat that won't Make you Sick!" or the like since you need to steer clear of making medical claims and the like for regulatory reasons. If you get your meat tested (which we're doing) then you can say something along the lines of "10mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids per serving". Stick with the facts.

Marketing is key. You must let people know that you exist and what you have to offer. If you're doing things differently than the CAFOs then you need to say so. The reality is you can not compete with Smithfield, Tyson, Conagra, etc on price. They have government subsidies, vertical integration and volume that lets them lose a mere $5 a pig many years but occasionally make $10 per pig such that they stay in business and make a profit.

You must make a profit. Profit is good. It is what you use to build our business. And a farm is a business. All too often I see people start up and charge prices that are so low they can't keep going. They do themselves, other farmers and consumers no favor by under charging and low balling. You price must be high enough to cover all of your costs and make a profit or you won't be doing it next year. Sustainability includes economics. Do a business plan and add in a margin to cover the surprises you'll hit.

Produce premium product, market it well and charge accordingly.
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I knew a guy in TN that was pasture raising his hogs on organic fields.

Most people in TN aren't thinking in the "Organic" mode yet, and his pricing was keeping most from trying it. So, at his church, he invited the congregation to his farm for a pig roast one Sunday afternoon.

The results:
He had to bring in a few more breeders to keep up with demand.
Once people eat a vastly superior product, they are hooked.
People who had been criticizing his prices are now ordering their whole & half pigs a year in advance.

Anybody can say theirs is better - he proved it.

 
Tom Kozak
Posts: 88
Location: Sudbury ON, Canada
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Amen.
 
Ollie Taylor
Posts: 19
Location: Brisbane, QLD, Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, thanks so much for the replies Walter and John, that is an amazing amount of information.

I have no doubt in my mind that pasture raised pigs taste better than corn/soy fed - I have experienced it myself, but like you say, the reasoning for it is not clear. I believe that even though these claims have some weight behind them, it is not really possible to claim that these are 'Miracle Cure All Pork, No more bad pork nastiness!' and it can only be said that they are looked after, fed well on great things etc. Focusing on the positive is always a great methodology- I believe that many people get put off of things when they are talked down to, and told that they are eating things that are bad currently.

I'm very new to the whole concept of raising pigs and did not even know that you could feed them on spent Barely - i'll be sure to keep an eye out for a local brewers when I finally find where I will be setting down roots! Might be a nice excuse to have a beer while i'm there too

I can imagine that time and patience must go into a genetic breeding program to get the best ones as breeders. I will be moving from the UK > Australia, so it is likely that any limited knowledge I have of pigs here will be vastly out of whack when it comes ot the right ypes of pigs to breed. I want to be able to breed only animals/grow only foods that are native to the area, as hard as that may be.

While the roots of my thinking about permaculture farming practices are placed firmly in the Utopian dream land, I know that producing a profit has to be done in order to live, pay off the mortgage, and provide for my future family, and a loss turning investment is absolutely pointless when it comes to a business.

Water it seems that you seriously know your stuff about organic/permie pig farming - could you recommend any books/documentaries/resources for a complete newcomer to get stuck into, in order to get a better understanding of the whole practice? It would be greatly appreciated I'll be having a look over your website after this post.

John, that is a great idea. I'm not churchgoer myself, but I can imagine that giving people a little taste and letting your product speak for itself is a great way to go about it. I used to run a t-shirt printing company, which printed for band merchandise. Some of the biggest successful orders we have came off the tail end of us giving away free t-shirts to potential clients. Sometimes an object/product/taste is worth a thousand words. Wherever I move to, I want to get involved heavily with the local community, so I'll be sure to be thinking about having a free tester day for anything I'd be selling.

Thanks again for the insight - it is invaluable to a complete newcomer like myself.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul probably has a long list of great reading materials. Perhaps somewhere on the forums he has already posted it. A good starting book on pigs is "Small Scale Pig Raising" by Dirk van Loon - older and out of print but excellent basics. It doesn't really cover pasturing but it will give you the starting knowledge you need. You'll find about 1,600 articles on my blog about how we do things as well as almost 13,000 comments of which about a fifth are answers I've given to people's questions there over the years. Storey publisher has some good books too.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 
Kelly Smitherson
Posts: 46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a waiting list of people who are begging me to raise more pigs, I can not meet the demand, but out here, people beg for good food, I do not have to sell why organic non gmo pasture is better- they know and they want it- so I lucked out that way, we are close to bg urban areas, now.. my folks trying to sell organic pork in the ag belt in Wisconsin- that IS different marketing than I have to do out here in the shadow of Seattle, home of the foodies
no issues in finding the demand, it is more about sticking to my guns on how I want to raise my animals and not giving into greed and trying to actually meet that demand
finding a SMALL customer base of people who think the way I do, and support SMALL family farm - and not compromising my priorities to make a sale

when you actually start farming, you will be amazed at how many other farmes come out of the woodwork all around you, it may seem like no one else is out there, but once you start networking as a working farmer- they will appear. I thought NO ONE else was doing what I was doing in my county, once I put some skin in the game I suddenly saw I was one of many- how wonderful

 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just wanted to throw out there - to find the first few customers try craigslist farm/garden section and also www.localharvest.org. After a bit you'll get return customers and word-of-mouth customers.

We just bought a pig off of someone on craigslist while waiting for ours to get big enough to eat.

There's also a new butcher shop in the area that specializes in locally raised, hormone/antibiotic free meats. I think the way the owner is working it is you can sell the animal directly to him then take it to one of three butchers he uses and he pays you for the animal and pays the butcher for their fees. It's just a storefront with a bunch of chest freezers but the guy is personable and I think he's doing quite well. Maybe you could look around to see if there's anyone like that in your area.
 
Ollie Taylor
Posts: 19
Location: Brisbane, QLD, Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kelly Smitherson wrote:I have a waiting list of people who are begging me to raise more pigs, I can not meet the demand, but out here, people beg for good food, I do not have to sell why organic non gmo pasture is better- they know and they want it- so I lucked out that way, we are close to bg urban areas, now.. my folks trying to sell organic pork in the ag belt in Wisconsin- that IS different marketing than I have to do out here in the shadow of Seattle, home of the foodies
no issues in finding the demand, it is more about sticking to my guns on how I want to raise my animals and not giving into greed and trying to actually meet that demand
finding a SMALL customer base of people who think the way I do, and support SMALL family farm - and not compromising my priorities to make a sale

when you actually start farming, you will be amazed at how many other farmes come out of the woodwork all around you, it may seem like no one else is out there, but once you start networking as a working farmer- they will appear. I thought NO ONE else was doing what I was doing in my county, once I put some skin in the game I suddenly saw I was one of many- how wonderful



That is great to hear that the demand is truly out there. Sometimes I seem to be lost in a sea of people who just don't really give two poops about where there food comes from. I will be basing my home/farm about 30-45 mins out of a major city (the other half is a bit of a city dweller in her heart of hearts so we cannot stray too far from the busy!) which will hopefully provide more of a market for our goods. It seems that this local area (Brisbane, Australia) has a strong Local Food and Organic network built up, so I'm hoping that when I come around to the time of raising pigs, there will also be a strong number of people who are after quality meats. Like you said - even though i'm just beginning, it does seem that the more involved I get with the networks of farmers/organics/permaculture/localfood, the bigger i realise these networks to be. And man, i'm glad Thanks for sharing your experience Kelly, appreciate it so much.

Renate Haeckler wrote:Just wanted to throw out there - to find the first few customers try craigslist farm/garden section and also www.localharvest.org. After a bit you'll get return customers and word-of-mouth customers.

We just bought a pig off of someone on craigslist while waiting for ours to get big enough to eat.

There's also a new butcher shop in the area that specializes in locally raised, hormone/antibiotic free meats. I think the way the owner is working it is you can sell the animal directly to him then take it to one of three butchers he uses and he pays you for the animal and pays the butcher for their fees. It's just a storefront with a bunch of chest freezers but the guy is personable and I think he's doing quite well. Maybe you could look around to see if there's anyone like that in your area.


Thanks for the link to localharvest - i'll check out if that is up and running over here (Australia). I'm pretty sure there must be an alternative if it is not. Gumtree is the big classifieds around here, and it is actually really well used, so i'll be bound to give that a go when I start selling pigs.

That was one of my initial thoughts about raising and then selling the pig meat, finding a butcher who would be willing to sell the meat openly, as oppose to by per order. The other option would be selling it directly to the customer on an order basis - for example, I would make a sale for a whole pig, and I would then ask the customer for the money to pay the butcher too (by selling them meat price + butcher price). I would find a decent, kind, small scale family butcher who would be willing to kill and butcher the meat on my behalf for the customer, and as long as that butcher worked within the parameters that I found to be positive and acceptable.

It'd be great to be able to find a butcher from where I could sell them the whole pigs for them to then sell in their shop, and also somebody who would be willing to also butcher pigs on demand for my own order-based customers. I'll be scouting the area when I locate my homestead for someone who would be willing to work with me. Fingers crossed someone like that exists out there!





 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One other option - once you learn how to butcher them (or do you already know??). One farm here has a day where all their customers who want to participate come pick "their" pig. Then as a group they all butcher the pigs right there at the farm. The law here says the seller can't butcher meat themselves then sell it but if you sell the live animal you are allowed to help the new owner butcher it and also to provide the facilities (chain hoist/come along, knives, gun, etc) to butcher it for a fee or as part of the fee. I imagine in that instance there's a bit of camaraderie and a sense of community that is in line with the permaculture ethic.

Of course then it would either have to be very cool or everyone would come away with fresh meat (my friend from China said they think hanging meat is nasty - they prefer it very very fresh) and they'd have to forego hams and smoked products unless they could do that themselves at home. Certainly there would be some details to work out. I think the farm that does it here waits until the weather cools enough that there's no worries about the meat spoiling.
 
Ollie Taylor
Posts: 19
Location: Brisbane, QLD, Australia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've not butchered a pig myself - i've only ever butchered pheasants, and gutted and filleted fish that i've caught and killed. Nothing as big as a pig!

I went to my first day of involvement with a local community farm that is just starting up - I have a feeling that I can learn a lot about plant based farming there, not sure if I will get to experience much with the animal side of things though. How would I go about learning to butcher a pig? I guess finding a farmer or butcher that is willing to tell me. It'll be a steep learning curve as I have no starting experience with killing mammals.

Renate - I like the idea of someone being able to come and 'pick' the pig they want. Reminds me of having a live tank where you can pick your lobster from in a restaurant! It has a more intimate feel of the person-food relationship to it.

You know, I used to hang pheasants for a week or so before eating them, and I always felt like the meat was not as nourishing when I ate it as opposed to eating it fresh. I'd have to agree with the friend from China - I believe that fresh meat is better in constitution - maybe not taste, but in nourishment, surely.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Around here they sell cull animals at auctions. I've been and some of the obviously sick/injured ones sell for only $5 or don't sell and I hear at some places they shoot them afterwards. If you just want an animal to practice on, that would be a possible way to go - the animals need to be put out of their misery anyway and likely are doomed whether you kill them or not. Doesn't matter so much whether it's a pig except for scalding off the bristles - the large mammals are pretty much the same once you get the skin off so a goat or sheep would give you a pretty good feel for how things go. IF you know the meat would be ok you could freeze it for your dogs or something (I wouldn't eat meat from a sick animal but dogs are naturally supposed to cull the sick/weak).

When we cut up the goat we had to kill for meat for our dogs, I really destroyed the tenderloin and the shoulder before I realized how it was laid out and what I should have done.

It would also be good to do a test run to try out different ways of cutting through the bones. We used a cordless reciprocating saw, my husband cut through the bones with it like slicing bread but I had a lot of problems for some reason.

Just be aware if you bring home a sick animal to be careful not to contaminate your place with something that could be contagious to your animals. A deformed animal, or a calf with a broken leg or something wouldn't be as risky. Or a species you don't plan to raise.
 
Kelly Smitherson
Posts: 46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
oh- so here in Washington there are rules about selling meat
a butcher shop could only sell my pork if I paid to have it specifically processed in a USDA facility, and of corse that costs more too
so, I do not sell meat- I sell pigs

I am getting 4 pigs, one is for my daughter to take to the fair and auction after showing it at the fair. One is for our family, this only leaves two for sale. I sell people the pig. I tell them when I am having it killed and what butcher shop I am using. They pay me by the hanging weight of the meat- then they work directly with the butcher themselves to order how they want the cuts done, and what cures etc etc- then they pay for the cut, wrap and kill directly to the butcher. I have nothing to do with their transaction there.
When I send my pigs to the butcher, I ask him to lable the halves by the folk's names, and let him know who will be contacting him, and he does the rest. Pretty standard out here.
If you are selling by the cut, instead of by the pig, some cuts will be worth more, and others worth less, yes, you will make more money selling by the cut-- but that is why it is a good deal for both you and your buyer if they go in on buying a half. Their price is by the pound, not by the cut.

I am not sure what the rules are where you are though. Darned rules.
 
Josh T-Hansen
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
the author of the chicken tractor book had great success with his high quality chickens by inviting his neighborhood over for a big grill out or roast. the taste won them over and if i remember correctly people understood him when he said the chickens had home grown flavor, which he may have felt was safer than organic because they were not usda certified.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic