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Heat Up Sales with the Freezer Trade

The Finger Lakes Meat Project expands the freezer trade to promote food affordability and farm viability.

by Susannah Spero

The Finger Lakes Meat Project works to expand livestock farms’ meat sales through the freezer trade. We are a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and we collaborate with farms, consumers, local businesses, and service providers to increase bulk meat sales in the Finger Lakes region. Our research has shown that selling meat in quarter, half, or whole animals is more profitable for the farmer and more affordable for the consumer. When farms sell meat in bulk, they save on labor and marketing costs. Expanding bulk meat sales preserves small farm viability while promoting food affordability. Our work is partially funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.

Agriculture Marketing Specialist Matthew LeRoux and Project Coordinator Susannah Spero at the Ithaca Meat Locker.

Agriculture Marketing Specialist Matthew LeRoux and Project Coordinator Susannah Spero at the Ithaca Meat Locker.

Our project has several components. Consumer education initiatives promote awareness of the freezer trade and encourage consumers to switch from buying meat by the piece from grocery stores to buying whole, half, or quarter animals from local farms. We want folks to find their farmer and fill their freezer! Because many consumers are unfamiliar with buying in bulk, we offer How to Buy Local Meat Classes, provide information at public events, and reach out to consumers through social media. By removing consumer barriers to buying in bulk, we hope to increase sales for local farms. We often hear from farmers that they wish they could sell all of their animals this way!

MeatSuite.com is our online directory of regional livestock farms. MeatSuite connects farms selling meat in bulk with interested consumers. Farms can post a free profile on the site. The profile includes photographs, descriptions of practices and philosophies, contact information, a product list, and prices. Thanks to funding from NYFVI, MeatSuite has recently expanded to over 20 counties in New York State. Joining MeatSuite is a no-cost, low-risk option for you to expand your marketing reach and articulate what makes your farm unique. Consumers tell us that MeatSuite is a useful resource and a great starting point for first-time local bulk buyers.

The Ithaca Meat Locker's large bins hold a quarter of a cow. The small bins can hold a whole lamb or hog.

The Ithaca Meat Locker’s large bins hold a quarter of a cow. The small bins can hold a whole lamb or hog.

Our Meat Lockers also support the freezer trade in our region by giving consumers a place to store bulk meat, and by creating a new marketplace for bulk meat sales. The Downtown Ithaca Meat Locker opened in 2014 and the Corning Meat Locker opened in summer 2015. We have received great feedback on the Lockers from farms, consumers, and the general public. If you know potential customers who want to buy in bulk but are concerned about storage, the Meat Locker may be a useful resource. Several livestock farms in our region refer customers to the Meat Locker and drop off bulk meat deliveries at the Meat Locker. Since opening, the Downtown Ithaca Meat Locker has stored meat purchased from over 20 farms.

Our next big initiative is creating a price calculator to help farms ensure profitability through accurate pricing. The tool allows producers to enter basic marketing and processing costs, then calculate the pricing necessary to reach the desired level of profitability. The tool allows the farm to adjust prices on each individual cut, to help balance demand and yields.  Our price calculator will be an online, user-friendly resource for you to reassess your prices and move towards profitability. Look for it to come online in early 2016.

Susannah Spero is a Project Assistant with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. She can be reached at scs297@cornell.edu.

For more information: We encourage local farms to get in touch with us to learn more about our programs. Please contact Matt LeRoux at mnl28@cornell.edu to learn more, and connect with us online on our Finger Lakes Meat Project Facebook page.

 

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