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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Community Minded Fresh Foods and Fresh Ideas

One of my favorite activities to burn up intellectual energy and combine it with creativity is to design business systems and strategies in my head. Yes, I am truly annoying at parties and it has been six months since I had a date who could keep up with the rate the squirrel turns the little cage in my mind. But enough about my personal life. The JBS discussion on massive food production as an industry has clicked the switch and the squirrel is running full time producing possibilities. Please, anyone with improvements on the idea, problems with squirrels running their brain cages, send me an email or comment below.

It begins with a collaboration between an organic cattle rancher and an entrepreneurial butcher/shop owner (if there still is such thing as a private skilled butcher). I wonder if there is a modern PC term. I'll have to look that up. But in the meantime, the butcher makes an alliance with the organic cattle rancher to provide beef at small but regular intervals.

The shop the butcher opens is more than a meat counter and processing/storage facility in modern times. Since the butcher will incur the expense of set-up for the regulated meat industry the old-time butcher becomes a new day deli shop complete with a small trendy area for sandwiches and soups. Some wine and cheese to go with that steak? Considering the likely expense of the equipment and health department clearances needed to pass health regulations and safety inspections the butcher can't be "just a butcher". This person will need to be a hands-on community entrepreneur business owner with some good low interest start-up funding. Small business community based economic development should be high on Greeley's town council's list. I've already visited that topic in another posting.

Not that I am opinionated or anything.

In the meantime the cattle rancher should begin developing a label for his beef product. A brand will be needed. Something like Will's Ranch Organics or something to that effect. The butcher agrees to only sell the exclusive Will's Ranch Organic label in exchange for a small price reduction and a specific amount of advertising dollar spent promoting this rancher's brand.

Now then comes the hard part--customers. Organic beef is going to be pricier so the deli shop needs to be in a high traffic area for higher income folk. Another option would be a subsidized rental and marketing campaign for the dying barrios around town given to the deli shop as part of a city-wide revitalisation strategy--but after having been in Greeley for a bit I don't see that progressive planning come from the powers currently in place. However giving the poor access to higher grade quality foods isn't a bad idea in the long run. It just isn't politically very correct to focus taxpayer dollars on declining areas where the wealthy have been lured and planned-away from.

The concept for place of the deli is something with a smaller storefront (but larger production and storage) sandwiched between a Starbucks and Soopers. People are in the food mindset already. Starbucks caters to the highly employed or trendy egos and Soopers hits a lower to middle income segment. A lot of seniors shop at Soopers too and they are "meat" savvy. Although I doubt the rental contract for Soopers is going to allow a main competitor nearby even it it might lift their market segment and encourage more high end shoppers to browse for the other food stuffs. But for this blog this sandwich concept is what I am considering.

Now to go along with the more progressive (no this isn't a political label it is a label for indicating change from the old systems) community-based deli I would suggest eventual expansion into, first, a high-end event and personal catering service operated out of the deli, and secondly, a high-end event cakery. The Cakery of course would need to be sectioned off from the deli meat smells. Then, considering the rising heat this summer, maybe hire an ice sculptor in. Okay I am digressing. Time to turn on the air conditioning.

The concept of expanding into these other two horizontal industries is to increase the flow of traffic coming into the deli of the primary market segment. The original facility design for the butchery can incorporate an easy expansion plan for the cakery to come in and also prep space for the catering service. Installing these kitchens up front if the capital is available might not be a bad idea if there is demand for rental kitchens in the area. That would also give the butcher opportunity to meet other small business entrepreneurs and make new alliances and branding prospects to service with the deli. Shared marketing expenses would be a plus too. Back to the more likely prospect though--The catering service and the cakery both could potentially be sublet to other area small business entrepreneurs or potential partnerships can be formed if capital investment is an issue.

One potential marketing tool for the butcher to use to expand sales would be a type of community cooperative beef purchasing power. Don't have room for a hind-quarter in the frig? Arrange a cooperative buy with other community individuals enrolled for specific buys at the butcher shop. That way the butcher minimizes waste and can give better need projections to the cattle rancher. It also might be a way to service the lower-income segments of the community and bring fresh quality foods within more people's price range.

In the meantime the organic cattle rancher's brand is building with all the local traffic into the butcher's shop. Since the butcher shop isn't going to produce enough demand to keep the cattle rancher alive the rancher is going to have to create a deal with a nearby (but not right next-door) Whole Foods or other high-end natural food store that deals in locally raised organic beef. The fact that the butcher's primary market segment is also the natural foods market segment will be helpful. The proximity of alternative quick purchases of the Will's Ranch Organic label will need to be limited to hedge off direct competition with the butcher. Although packaged meat never has the same flavor as fresh beef. Any family rancher can tell a city-dweller that tale.

So what are the win/wins? The community gets a fresh local product from a responsible and accountable community member. Local family farmers get market prestige and to invest in their own product label. Greeley gets a more diversified economy with an actively developing small business sector relating to its historical base. The Town Council gets praise for diversifying and supporting the little guy for a change. No one gets mega rich and power hungry--they just get an improved quality of life. The loser: questionable corporations like JBS/Swift and the whole concept that bigger is always better for the consumer. It generally is better for investor--especially those far removed from the community served or the product served.

My viewpoint of course.

Disclaimers: While I have family who are ranchers, and I have consulted on building organic brands with, I really don't have a working concept of how auctions are controlled and work for the individual family-size rancher. From what my uncle and cousins share--"It isn't good." Nonetheless the bulk of the rancher's herd, commanding premium prices in the organic market, I am assuming could be auctioned off if a secondary market like Whole Foods won't take up the herd without a big economy of scale. Whole Foods though certainly could jump on the idea of "local sustainability" though as their primary segment should respond regardless without too much price-sensitivity. In fact they could sponsor such a private community deli inside each store--a big potential branding hit for them if the community marketing aspect was managed correctly. But I am not sure the numbers would crunch well in the end. Hiring a skilled, trained, butcher or shopping out their butchery is not cheap. Plus then the butcher wouldn't get to be his own boss. That is a real downside.

Comments :

4 comments to “Community Minded Fresh Foods and Fresh Ideas”

LifeTransPlanet said...

You should read "Everything I want to do is illegal" by Joel Salatin. He has been trying to do what you describe, but most of the incentives have been to huge companies rather than individual farmers and ranchers.

I believe abattoir is the word you're looking for when referring to the butchering site. We definitely need to do something different in our food system. For me, personally, we've started with our backyard chickens and garden.

You can check out our website:

Jane Paudaux from Greeley, Colorado said...

Thanks for the word! Of course now I'll have to memorize the spelling... which for me is a questionable outcome. I like the idea of community gardens. There are some feasible ideas out there on how to get people without land enough space to garden too. I'm going to explore some of these in the blog as I go along.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I could expand your business model just a little. Some time ago I was in France and I had the opportunity to eat a place called "Le Buchonde Carnivores" (The Butcher for Carnivores). Anyway when you walk in the restaurant, the front is an old time butcher shop. You literally go to the butcher counter, tell them what cut of beef you want, they'll cut it right in front of you and cook it to your liking and bring it to your table.

I don't know if something like that would do well with the ranchers and farm folk in Greeley but I have no doubts it'd do well in Denver or Fort Collins.

Jane Paudaux said...

Hmm. I wonder if you can have an open pit BBQ in the middle of the room. Something rustic and primitive but aesthetically pleasing that the health department would approve. That reminds me--a friend has been living in Italy and she said that people there tend to go to the grocer's every day for fresh food. I've read that somewhere else to about Europe. They buy their dinner fresh each day and the supermarket becomes a community bonding point each afternoon. It would be fun to put something together and tinker with it to get it just right. I really think fresh food will be on a lot more agendas in the future. Thanks for the suggestion.

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