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Marketing a Poultry Share  RSS feed

 
Thomas Partridge
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Location: Zone 7a
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We have decided after having poor success at selling free range eggs and chicks (the market is inundated in this area I believe) to try our hand at selling poultry shares next year. We decided the shares (delivered each month) would each be as follows:

(2) Dozen Eggs (free range)
(2) Whole Chickens (dressed out at twelve weeks)
(1) Whole Muscovy (dressed out at twelve weeks)

We cannot technically call any of it "Organic" since to be technically organic would be unsustainable (we feed them a lot of scraps that may not be organic and upcycle quite a bit of material that may be pressure treated) so we plan to price the share at about the same price per item/pound as the grocery store initially. We have checked all applicable state and federal laws and there shouldn't be any issues there so our question is where would be the best place to market these shares? We had considered farmers markets but that would require one of us to be there and we just have so much work to do on the homestead that the labor cost of such a gamble would be pretty serious. Are their sites where people who buy CSA shares often visit (we haven't bought one ourselves although we are considering milk shares) and find where to get their shares from?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Facebook

Craigslist

Your blog

Friends and family (Get them to like and share your fb posts)

Don't underprice your shares. Natural pastured poultry is still worth a premium. You will lose a lot of customers if you raise the price next year. You are better off with fewer people that stick with you.

 
John Master
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I have found with marketing just about anything that its better to give something extra away free and leave the price the same than it is to give a low price then raise it, or have "sales". Better to have a "Bonus freebie this month" or "bonus for signing up" and keep the price you want to keep be the same for everyone than to have a % off, or dollar off or on sale promotion. Putting things on sale for some people will only make the ones who have been and are paying regular price irritated.
 
Thomas Partridge
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Great suggestions!

However those marketing ideas are all things we are currently doing to try and sell the eggs and chicks without success though . We have even lowered the price of the eggs down to $2 a dozen just to avoid feeding them back to the chickens. Well except for the facebook thing, we have a facebook page but I rather not sell a single share than ask my family and friends for help with sales.

I priced the shares based on what I would be willing to leave the prices at and what was sustainable, not low with the intention of raising them. I may one day raise my prices but those prices would always be locked in for current customers (even if it meant taking a loss). $2 a pound for chicken is a fair price, especially when it is a repeat customer.

What about posting flyers, is that still a valid strategy or does that not work well anymore?

 
Ann Torrence
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Thomas Partridge wrote:
Well except for the facebook thing, we have a facebook page but I rather not sell a single share than ask my family and friends for help with sales.

You aren't begging, you are making a good product available to the people close to you who probably share your values. They will be your best evangelists to help you find more customers. Raise your prices (see below) and give a "friends and family" discount. I sold a ton of books that way when I was peddling my masterpiece.
Thomas Partridge wrote:
What about posting flyers, is that still a valid strategy or does that not work well anymore?

Might, can't hurt.

Farmer's markets for sign-ups. Even if you can't sell there. Make it a game: Make a new poster of a chicken breed each week and tell your customers: "tell us our chicken breed of the week when you call for your share to get a free extra chicken when you sign up."
Raise your prices and you can afford to give away one-free trial chickens. I'm studying the wine business right now, and it looks not uncommon to give away in the tasting room essentially one bottle out of every case to make the sale.

Best advice I got when selling books: don't expect to get the same price for every book, but never sell a book for a loss. I didn't, sold them all and didn't go broke. Bet it's the same for poultry. You are lucky in VA, it would cost me $20K to get set up to process chickens here, the <1000 bird exemptions aren't interpreted as much of an exemption.
 
Thomas Partridge
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Ann Torrence wrote:
Thomas Partridge wrote:
Well except for the facebook thing, we have a facebook page but I rather not sell a single share than ask my family and friends for help with sales.

You aren't begging, you are making a good product available to the people close to you who probably share your values. They will be your best evangelists to help you find more customers. Raise your prices (see below) and give a "friends and family" discount. I sold a ton of books that way when I was peddling my masterpiece.


Except that my family cannot buy my shares, since I live relatively far away from them (very far from all the ones that use facebook or even a computer). So I would basically be asking their endorsement on a product they themselves do not use.

Another thought occurs to me, if the animals are only intentionally fed organic feed is it unethical to market them as organic as long as it is small scale? From what I remember you do not need organic labeling if you are small enough. We can get organic feed for $22 for 50 pounds, and by my rough napkin math the above share would take 53lbs of feed to produce with our current management system (this is in the winter, in the summer the feed amounts would of course be less). That would have the share's feed cost at around $23.32. I was planning to charge around $40 for a share, but I am wondering if the market couldn't handle $55 for the same share if that share was "organicish". That would be about the same price for buying those items in a grocery store with the organic label.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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There are never enough eggs at my farmer's market. The people that sell meat run a brisk business.

The thing that surprised me most when the university conducted a survey of my customers, is that they didn't care about my agricultural practices... For the most part, they didn't care that I don't use poisons, they didn't want me to pursue organic "certification", they were pretty much only interested in taste... I think that most people that are sophisticated enough to value "organic" food, are also sophisticated enough to understand that certification is more about politics and bureaucracy than it is about food safety. In my opinion, the best practice for small producers is to just tell people what you are doing, and how your grow your products. I have a web page that describes my practices: I never use poisons, and almost no fertilizers, and I sprinkle irrigate with river water that has micro-organisms in it, and you might find some bugs on the vegetables. The term "naturally grown" is used fairly commonly around here to describe crops that are grown without poisons. I often put a sign on my table at market that says, "No cides applied in 7 years".

I am an egg snob. I buy eggs from everyone that brings them to market. Then I take them home and cook them. I evaluate the color, and the taste. I notice how well the yolk stands up in the pan. I evaluate the taste. There are huge differences in taste between different flocks. Did I mention that I taste them? The one guy that advertises "pastured eggs" at my market produces a product that is as insipid as grocery store eggs. I don't know what's his definition of pasture, but they definitely don't measure up to what I think a good egg should be.

Around here, eggs being sold at the farmer's market are among the more regulated products, so if you jump through the hoops to get there, AND have great tasting eggs, then you can ask premium prices. You can expect lower prices for free market eggs because the growers don't have to be compensated for compliance with the regulatory burdens.

The best eggs around here free range in a forest. And the farmer feeds them lots of greens, vegetables, and etc...

After doing this for a long time, I recommend never trying to compete with the grocery stores on price... Eggs that come from chickens that are free-ranged in a forest are not even the same product that the grocery store is selling. Meat that comes from free-ranged chickens is not the same product as the grain/soy fed chickens in the grocery store. Superficially, they might resemble each other, but they have very little else in common. The stark contrast is super easy to taste in things like strawberries and muskmelons. It's especially easy to notice in eggs. Chicken meat that is raised in a food forest is a special treat. Mmmm. Mmm. Mmm. At my farmer's market, locally-raised, properly-fed, great tasting meats and eggs sell for about double what the grocery stores are asking. But it's got to be a great product.

To directly answer the original question: http://localharvest.org

And finally, these are the eggs from 2 different farmers at my market one week. Can you tell which farmer's eggs I will not be buying again?
 
Thomas Partridge
Posts: 130
Location: Zone 7a
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Great post Joseph!

I price based on the grocery store not because I think I have to, but because I don't believe in charging a person a price I myself would not be willing to pay. I could charge $10 a pound for free range chicken meat, but that is a price I would never pay so I wouldn't. Just one of my quirks and we all have to live with our quirks .

Perhaps a tray of roasted muscovy meat with toothpicks at a farmer's market once a month might not be a bad way to go. Would just have to find a farmer's market that would let me do that for free.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Thomas Partridge wrote:I price based on the grocery store not because I think I have to, but because I don't believe in charging a person a price I myself would not be willing to pay. I could charge $10 a pound for free range chicken meat, but that is a price I would never pay so I wouldn't. Just one of my quirks and we all have to live with our quirks .


I wonder how industrialized-agriculture became an authority figure in your life? Aren't they way over-charging for food? Shouldn't your prices be half of grocery store prices? Because that would be more fair and honest? How much is it worth to someone to eat food that hasn't been poisoned?

To show you how I am, I sell carrots for $1 per pound at the farmer's market and then buy them for 20 cents a pound from the grocery store for eating at home.

A guy at my market sells sweet corn 8 ears for $1. The rest of the farmers ask 3 ears per $1, and sell out. So I figure that the guy selling at super low prices is leaving money on the table. I wonder if it's a sin to charge too little.

I charge about 4X grocery store prices for strawberries. However they are definitely not the same product that the grocery stores are selling. I sell lots of things at half price compared to the grocery stores, or even 80% lower. I sell lots of things that are not available at the grocery store for any price. I'm pretty sure that I couldn't buy a Muscovy duck at any of my local supermarkets. I suppose that makes them priceless.

On the other hand, most of what I grow is gifted away, so who am I to even be having a conversation about not charging enough for farm products?
 
Ann Torrence
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Thomas Partridge wrote:Except that my family cannot buy my shares, since I live relatively far away from them (very far from all the ones that use facebook or even a computer). So I would basically be asking their endorsement on a product they themselves do not use.

Then you need a separate FB account for your farm. I think Joseph's story about the survey is telling but left something out. Your customers also want a relationship with the farmer. They want to trust you. That's hard for people to articulate.

Back to books: I just had a routine medical test. The woman who ran the machine bought a book from me 6 years ago, remembered me, what my book was about, also the print she bought from me. She was happy to see me, and we are going to do business together in the future. I probably spent 2 minutes with her six years ago. You build that kind of relationships with your customers, you can charge fair for the high quality you are producing.

I don't price eggs at grocery store prices, that's commodity food and ours are better. Mine are the most expensive at the farmers market, on purpose. I never take any home afterwards. Sometimes people come buy them at my house the morning before the market starts because they are afraid I'll run out before they get there. They are buying eggs, but they are also buying me, my brand, my commitment to quality. Don't sell yourself short. You are the brand.
 
Thomas Partridge
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Thomas Partridge wrote:I price based on the grocery store not because I think I have to, but because I don't believe in charging a person a price I myself would not be willing to pay. I could charge $10 a pound for free range chicken meat, but that is a price I would never pay so I wouldn't. Just one of my quirks and we all have to live with our quirks .


I wonder how industrialized-agriculture became an authority figure in your life? Aren't they way over-charging for food? Shouldn't your prices be half of grocery store prices? Because that would be more fair and honest? How much is it worth to someone to eat food that hasn't been poisoned?


For the most part those are the prices that seem fair to me *shrugs*.

I look at a price, ask myself how much it would cost me to produce it with a reasonable mark up for labor and infrastructure and decide whether or not it is worth buying. Carrots are under priced in the super market by my estimation and ears of corn are over priced by the same estimation. Regardless though 9 times out of 10 I judge grocery store prices to be close enough to use as a rough metric. With chickens it doesn't cost me significantly more to free range them than it would to just provide 100% of their food it might actually cost me less, so charging significantly more when my costs and labor are not significantly increased and may even be reduced feels wrong. This is not a judgement on those that do, but it just isn't the kind of business for me .

I would love to offer people an affordable and healthy alternative to the grocery store so that even impoverished people can afford to buy from me.

 
Joylynn Hardesty
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A friend's experience...
Every product has a 'sweet spot' for price point. My friend was making a clever design of diaper bags. She came up with her idea of a fair price: $25. She sold a few, and was happy with the rate of profit. She ran out of customers. She had a number of inquiries, through the website, but few orders.
A sales rep for boutiques found her and worked out a deal. Now she made a little more per bag, through his sales orders, and she had to sell the bags through her website at no less than the boutiques' suggested retail of $59 each. She had difficulty keeping up with the orders! And reorders!
Those customers who purchased the diaper bag at $25 received the same excellent workmanship as the more expensive bags. The only difference is the customers' perceived value of the goods.

I do not know the 'sweet spot' price for your product. I suggest to you, that you are too low. Perhaps your goods are looked upon with suspicion because they are too cheap...

People are weird. Their conclusions do not have to make sense.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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"I would love to offer people an affordable and healthy alternative to the grocery store so that even impoverished people can afford to buy from me."
I do like your goal.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Thomas Partridge wrote:I would love to offer people an affordable and healthy alternative to the grocery store so that even impoverished people can afford to buy from me.


No matter how low I set my prices, there will always be people that are too impoverished to buy from me. As a vegetable farmer, I try to deal with that by putting my seconds in a box and putting a very low price on the box. People can get a lot of great food for a low price if they don't mind a blemish, or a worm, or a deer bite, or something like that. I don't know if that's possible with eggs or meat. The only way I have found to get great food to the poorest of the poor is that I gift more food to people than I sell. That has it's own set of rewards. Most people don't stay perpetually poor. They go through cycles. Years later they remember me with gifts, or loyalty, or massage, or PR, or other non-monetary gifts.

 
Sarah Joubert
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Thomas Partridge wrote:We had considered farmers markets but that would require one of us to be there and we just have so much work to do on the homestead that the labor cost of such a gamble would be pretty serious.

I think there has been much valuable advice given by quite a few experienced people on this post about the value of responsibly farmed food. The prices in supermarkets reflect the low profit/unit margin that mass production take advantage of, and while I know that you say your unit cost is lower than your sales price, I think there are many ways to provide food for the poorer members of society (essentially a discount, like a low income subsidy) and still ask a fair price for produce. While appreciating your ethics and reasoning for low prices, you won't be in a position to help anyone if you can't survive yourself.
I read an interesting post on Facebook the other day (I know it's not the topic of this thread but it may offer a solution to helping those who need it) about "suspended coffee" and was thinking it may be applied on produce stalls-people buy extra to be distributed to the needy. Or you can offer a "match" scheme-for every item someone contributes to your charity scheme, you will match it-win win, you get a decent price, the person buying gets the "feel good" factor, you fulfil your ethics principle and the less fortunate benefit.
When all is said and done, if we are to continue helping others, we need to be able to help ourselves first and we can't do that if we are just scraping by. Your production ethics have value too, accept it and get creative about ploughing back.
 
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