Can a website turn my beef business into a cash cow?
Q: I am a beef farmer. There is always a struggle to recover the right price for each animal in order to ensure a profit. I was thinking of trying to sell some of the meat directly to consumers via a website. Is this realistic?
A: I admire your entrepreneurship. If we go back in time to our parents' or grandparents' generation, families who lived in the countryside would raise animals and typically when the animal was slaughtered, they would either share some with their neighbours or sell it to those living close by. What you are asking is no different in one sense.
The meat market has become complex and the need for wholesalers in order to get product ready for supermarkets and the wider marketplace is now taken as a given, but of course as you point out, there is someone else to take more profit in the middle. There are a number of good farmer direct beef schemes in Ireland, like IrishPiedmonteseBeef.ie
The idea of partnering with a local abattoir and having a great online site, boosting your online search optimisation and having a strong marketing campaign via your digital media, should get you off the ground.
I found a very interesting model in America, where farmers and customers group together to buy the full animal through a crowd-funded system (crowdcow.com).
There are lots of customers out there who would love to support agriculture and who would also like to buy beef direct from a farm, but have no way to do it. This might be something innovative you could look at.
Regardless of which model you choose, you will need to be an expert at marketing and achieving free PR in the media. If you can't achieve this, it will simply be a case that people won't know you're there. Some of that marketing will be through traditional media but probably more investment in digital media marketing would be best.