Image Credit: La Citta Vita, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Once a direct-marketing program begins to gain traction, individual grass fed cattle farmers who develop their own direct-marketing strategy can rarely scale up their beef production fast enough to produce enough grass fed beef to supply their rapidly-expanding beef demand.
The very nature of this problem does, however, suggest a powerful alternative beef cattle marketing strategy for your grass finished beef. It just requires an open mind, some flexibility, and some cooperation...
Team up with someone who already has a successful marketing pipeline in place - someone who already has the problem of struggling to produce sufficient beef to meet their customer-demand.
Become their supplier. Solve your marketing problem while solving their supply problem! Win-win.
Teaming up with someone who already has a beef cattle marketing pipeline in place lets you focus all your energy, time, and capital on perfecting your grass finishing program.
Of course that means they take a commission or buy your beef at a wholesale price, but it's perfectly reasonable that they get some kind of return for all the time and financial investment that they put in to develop their marketing pipeline. As you saw in the previous article, building a successful direct-marketing program requires a huge commitment of time and money, many years before you can expect it to run anywhere near full capacity.
By teaming up with other farmers who already have a successful beef cattle marketing pipeline in place, you are saving yourself years of time and expenses. Your time and capital can remain 100% committed to building out your beef production strategy - in other words, instead of investing time and capital on building your marketing pipeline, you can invest that same time and capital on more land and more cattle.
Alternately, if you already have a successful marketing pipeline in place and are struggling to meet demand, consider approaching other grass fed farmers to increase your available beef supply.
Once a marketing pipeline begins to really gain traction, it is unlikely that you'll be able to grow your land base and cattle herd fast enough to keep up with demand. The only way to keep up with demand is to team up with other grass fed beef producers.
This team approach to marketing your grass fed beef has countless benefits over going it alone.
It allows all the members of the team to focus on their special expertise. The less you need to divide your time, energy, planning efforts, and capital, the further ahead you will all be.
But let's look at it from the customer's point of view.
There are already countless small farms trying to direct-market their grass fed beef. And the vast majority simply do not have sufficient beef supply as individual farms to even begin to interest large grocery chains or large restaurants - these farms individually simply cannot produce sufficient beef to regularly supply these large buyers throughout the year. Instead, they rely on reaching individual people and families directly. But that means these individual farms are all competing with one another for their customers' attention.
The moment farms begin to team up by utilizing the market pipelines of those farms that are already most successfully established, these hurdles related to being small fish in a huge market suddenly begin to solve themselves.
By tying multiple farms into the same beef cattle marketing pipeline, it is possible to grow supply quickly. It also has the benefit of spreading out the available beef supply over a longer season because inevitably different farmers will have different slaughter seasons and different grass finishing programs.
There is even a huge advantage when farms from different climatic regions can work together because this helps to smooth out the challenges of producing a seasonal beef product for a year-round market.
Furthermore, cooperation means that as a group you suddenly have the production volume to be able to supply grocery chains, restaurants and other larger volume buyers. Or you have the scale to warrant opening your own store front or beef delivery service.
With volume comes recognition - your logo, your advertisements, your public relations efforts, and your beef simply will reach more people, which gets the snowball rolling. People buy from those they know - familiarity builds trust. Combining the supply of multiple farms into a single beef cattle marketing pipeline means you can build that familiarity and that trust faster.
This team approach also significantly reduces your beef cattle marketing costs. By spreading your advertising costs over a large volume of beef means you can afford a radio-advertising blitz or print-advertising campaign whereas smaller individual producers cannot.
You'll get volume discounts and slaughter priority at the slaughter facility. A single fleet of cattle transport equipment can be shared. A single refrigerated storage facility can accommodate many farms' beef supply. And you only need to invest in a single fleet of refrigerated transport trucks, rather than each farm needing to develop their own.
Pasture-based production strategies overcome many of the problems of scale on the production-end of the business, allowing pasture-based cattle farmers to produce beef as cheaply, or even cheaper, than conventional grain-finished feedlot businesses.
But on the marketing end of the grass-fed beef business, there is no doubt that the advantage continues to lie in the hands of those that can scale up their marketing efforts - even if they only want to supply their local beef markets. And that advantage of scale is achievable through cooperative teamwork among individual farms - not through each individual grass fed cattle farm trying to market independently.
As long as individual farmers resist tying their marketing efforts together, individual farms cannot hope to supply large volume buyers and are consequently severely limiting their customer base.
Realistically, only a tiny portion of beef customers regularly attend farmers markets. Very few people are willing or are equipped with sufficient freezer storage to buy half a beef carcass (cut-and-wrapped) directly off the farm. Very few restaurants have the menu flexibility to deal with a seasonal beef supply. And very few grocery stores are going to make the effort to handle a seasonal low-volume beef supply because doing so risks disrupting reliable supply-chains from beef suppliers that cover the rest of the year. It's not personal. It's just about controlling costs and creating consistency and predictability in their supply chains and marketing efforts.
As long as grass fed cattle farmers try to go it alone on the beef cattle marketing front, they will remain tiny niche-marketers that are forever vulnerable to the marketing efforts of the innovative few that take the time to develop large-scale marketing pipelines that tie the supply of many farms together.
Image Credit: Jim Troddel, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
The majority of the world lives in urban environments, have small homes without large deep freezers, shop in grocery stores not farmers markets, and like the convenience of a year-round beef supply. That trend is likely to continue.
Image Credit: Jim Troddel, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
And the world continues to become more urbanized while technology continues to raise everyone's standard of living. An urban lifestyle and a higher standard of living inevitably mean an increased interest in healthy food sources and leaner beef products.
With these big picture trends in place, demand for grass fed beef is not going away anytime soon. It's just a matter of developing a marketing pipeline that makes it convenient for individual consumers, retailers, and restaurants to access grass fed beef, when they want and in the way they shop.
So rather than fighting the trend, adapt to it. That means scaling up the capacity of marketing pipeline by tying together the production efforts of multiple farms. That's the kind of supply-chain that has the flexibility, robustness, and volume to reach all beef consumers, not just the select few who regularly attend farmers markets and own their own deep freezers.
With slaughter, butcher, and marketing costs making up as much as half the cost most currently-available retail grass fed beef, this co-operative approach to marketing grass fed beef is also the only strategy that can create meaningful marketing cost savings so that grass fed beef can be priced competitively to its grain-finished rival.
In the world of beef cattle marketing, cooperation and teamwork win the day by tying the production of multiple grass fed beef farms together through a single marketing pipeline.
Thumbnail Image Credit: La Citta Vita, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0