Road to direct marketing
Texas cattle rancher provides tips to start farm-to-fork businesses
for The Fence Post
The Kansas Department of agriculture started the new year off by providing detailed information to help livestock producers wanting to start farm-to-fork ventures by holding online webinars Jan. 4-8, 2021. Producers interested in selling beef direct-to-consumers learned about the basics of the business, savvy social media marketing, consumer insights and advice about the direct-to-consumer model.
“Now more than ever, it seems consumers are looking to get their meat directly from farmers,” said Kansas Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam.
To get started, it’s recommended that producers select a company name different from the 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 Rachel Cutrer who co-owns B.R. Cutrer, Inc. Brahman Ranch in Wharton, Texas, with her husband Brandon. Since 2018, the couple has been selling their grass-fed, grain-finished, hormone-free beef under the brand name Brahman Country Beef. “I would love to have our beef in a major retail store, so we used a name that’s not tied to my/or our last name, in case we wanted to expand,” added Cutrer who also operates a web design business called Ranch House Designs Inc.
“If you’re not familiar with the Brahman breed, you hear they’re crazy like rodeo bulls, but that’s not accurate, they’re actually a dream to raise,” Cutrer said.
Once you’ve selected your beef company name, think about branding, especially if you are working with a large number of costomers.
“Ideally, include a logo with your marketing, a consistent set of colors — maybe some colors you have on your ranch — and possibly doing some custom things. We put a postcard in all of our orders, and some freezer magnets,” Cutrer said.
Next, your customers or who you want your customers to be? “Fifty-seven percent of my customers are women, 42 percent are men. Ninety-one percent are from Texas, although I ship about 9 percent of our beef nationwide. Fifty-seven percent live within 10 miles of me, which is a really small area.”
“I’ve gotten some customers while in my children’s school car pick up line, in church, or people I went to school with,” said Cutrer, who along with her husband, are seventh and eighth generation Brahman ranchers with agricultural roots dating back to the 1800s.
The Cutrers prefer selling locally but when need to ship, their formula is to ship a 12 x12 x12 box with an insulated box liner, one cold pack for every 3 pounds of beef and UPS ground shipping with guaranteed quality.
The best customers are enthusiastic ones, and Cutrer likes the philosophy of Airbnb, the online vacation rental company, that it’s “better to have 100 people who ’love’ Airbnb, Inc., rather than many more who somewhat ’like’ them.”
Cutrer also offers cuts that can’t readily be found in the local grocery store.
“Eighteen percent of my current customers are Hispanic, and a smaller percentage are African American,” Cutrer said. “I mention this because I’m able to give them certain cuts of meat (tongue or cheek meat) that they might’ve had to drive much farther to get.” Oxtails are also a locally sourced option at their ranch.
The highest selling cut is the Brahman hump, which is a delicacy in the U.S., and the Cutrers have a waiting list for it. The next best seller is hanger steak, a rich, bold, flavorful steak, then ribeyes, filets and New York strip.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
The next step letting people know about and how to buy your products.
Brahman Country Beef has an email list, a printed list and a text messaging list. This could be the people in your phone address list who you think might be interested in buying your product. “I have groups on Facebook, and a Wharton County buy/sell/trade group here,” Cutrer said.
She recommends setting up a business page on Facebook that is different from your personal Facebook page. The local newspaper can also be a source to attract a different audience.
Cutrer also recommends using the app Canva, which is especially helpful after hours on a cellphone to whip up a quick ad. Also http://www.leadpages.com or using another marketing funnel — consumer-focused marketing model. “You have a landing page that you can send people to, it gives a rundown on our beef, and at the bottom it says ‘click here to have constant contact’ so I can keep them updated when I have beef in stock,” she said
Keep your direct to consumer selling records separate from your farm. Quick Books online with a separate file has an app, so if you’re visiting a client at a ranch or in a pasture, you could pull up an invoice on a Smartphone or mobile device.
Places to market your beef include Shopify, an online store with shipping, retail stores, farmers markets or direct to restaurants and food service providers.
When she first started her beef business, Cutrer said she drove all over town dropping off orders. That led her to finding a way to work smarter by using TimeTrade software. When an order is complete, an email moves customers to select a date and time to pick up and it enables them to pay with a credit card. Other sellers have a small stand-alone building on their property with their business hours on a sign. One busy company, Bar R-C Ranch Beef in Texas, advises people in advance that they can get their beef when they’re at a specific farmers markets during a certain block of time.
Since meat processors quickly became booked when the COVID pandemic first hit, the Cutrers said, they just took whatever processing dates they could get.
“Initially I sold steers live on the hoof and let the buyer purchase where he could process it,” Cutrer said. “I have a processor booked out for the year, and sometimes they have people who cancel.”
THE ART OF THE DEAL
To boost sales Cutrer suggests doing your homework. Most people know how to cook a ribeye and ground beef, but to encourage additional sales its good to be prepared with recipes for other cuts.
Talk to regular customers about other cuts of meat and offer package deals like ”Buy a pound of a certain meat, and get another choice free.“
“Every month, I box a different mix of meat, to move some of those less popular cuts and keep it below $100,” she said. The point is to make a greater profit than you would have if you sold the steer at the auction barn.
There is a lot of information to go through when marketing direct to consumers, Cutrer said. “But feeding our fellow consumer and feeding the world is why we raise cattle. As a beef producer, it makes me realize why I want to be better and help people in our community.”
For wholesale beef pricing information, go to http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com.
For more information about the Cutrer’s operation, go to https://brahmancountrybeef.com/ or the Kansas Department of Agriculture at https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/agricultural-marketing-advocacy-and-outreach-team/business-development.
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