Over the past 31 years, we have tried several way to market our Beefalo. Below is a summary of what we found.
AUCTION BARNS: In the early days, most of the animals went off to the auction barn where they ultimately went to meat packing plants. While it was easy, just load them into a trailer and haul them away and wait for a check, most of the time we were at the mercy of what the market would pay and more often than not, our profit margin wasn’t very good, especially because we were graining our animals to a certain extent back then. If the animal had horns, we were docked. If the animal “wasn’t the right color” we were docked. If we actually told them that it was a Beefalo, the animal brought a much lower price. If we happened to take them in at the same time that a lot of other producers were taking theirs in then there was a “glut” and everybody got less. This is still happening today at most auction barns and is not the best way to receive top dollar for your beefalo meat animal.
RETAIL STORES: If we sold our meat through a middleman such as a convenience or small grocery store, they needed the price to be such that they could still put their markup on it and make a profit. That meant less money in our pockets even after we had done all the work of raising and processing the animal and usually we had to be able to store the meat as well until the customer was ready to take more into their store. More work for us and probably no more profit than if we had taken it to the stockyard.
RESTAURANTS: Selling to restaurants posed a different set of problems to overcome. To supply a high-end restaurant with quality steaks would mean that we then had to find an outlet for the roasts and burger which amount to about ¾ of an animal’s finished weight. Typically, steaks make up only about 25% of the finished weight. To keep a restaurant supplied with enough steaks for business 6-7 days a week would take a very large herd and since a restaurant can’t say to their customers, “Oh, we are out of ribeye steaks until next fall.” you would need to be absolutely sure that you could keep them supplied 365 days of the year.
If you were to sell to a lower end restaurant that mostly sold burger, the task would be a little easier because if you absolutely had to you could grind up all of your roasts and steaks to keep the customer supplied. However, most restaurants do not have the freezer capacity to store an entire animal and would require weekly or semi-weekly deliveries depending on their demand. They too want a “discounted” price so that they can put their markup on it and make a profit. Once again, you do all the work and someone else is profiting from your labors and in some cases maybe more than you.
DIRECT MARKETING: Direct marketing is the best way for you go get a fair price and provides some control over what you make. The following is a strategy that has worked well for us and we have revised and modified this over the years to make it easier and simpler with less risk and hassle.
In order to direct market your beefalo, you need to have meat animals available for sale. How you feed them and how they are raised will have an effect on what your target market will be. In our case, we evolved to selling pasture-raised, grass-fed beefalo. There was less competition and that type of meat was bringing a higher price in the grocery stores. We realized early on that we would never be able to compete with Angus meat as the market was saturated with that type of meat.