Monday, October 24, 2011

Individual Cuts vs. The Whole/Half Hog

I thought I would expand a little on the cuts vs. whole/half animals post a little since there were a couple of comments on my previous post. First of all I don't believe I'll ever get to a point where I don't do any individual cuts (although I could be wrong), but I would like to get a point where it is a very small portion of the sales. As I detailed in the last post I strongly believe that a whole/half is the most sustainable for all involved, but I also understand that there will always be a majority of customers/potential customers who like the convenience of only buying pork chops and bacon.

In our case we sell the individual cuts through multiple sources ... at a farmers' market, through an on-line order food cooperative, monthly deliveries to a group of customers in the Des Moines area, and off the farm. With all of those various methods of selling (some of which overlap) keeping an inventory is a requirement. That inventory takes quite a bit of time as we keep track not only of quantity, but also of weights (we use a spread sheet at the farmers' market with weights to make selling easier). When we process a hog (or anything else) that will be for sale as individual cuts there is also an extra charge at the locker to make it an "official" animal and have labels with weights. On top of all of that time there is also the expense of running freezers, or in my case of never having enough freezers!

As you might imagine all of that adds up to quite a bit of extra time and money spent in order to offer the convenience of individual cuts. I can see the benefit of individual cuts if you were just doing it for a few cuts (burger and steaks as mentioned in one of the comments), but if I could get away from it I would. We do try to keep everything that we can get a label for. That means we have plenty of lard, leaf lard, and pork soup bones. And, at certain times of the year we really get overloaded on things like ham, ham hocks, and roast.

On the flip side when we sell a whole there is no need for freezer space, there is no inventory, and there is not as much time spent in selling it. This was our first year doing a pay-as-it-grows program on the pigs and it seems like there was a decent amount of interest in that. It is something that takes a bit more paper work and time, but if you compare it to the individual cuts you realize it isn't so bad I think. Plus, when the whole hog is sold there isn't any "tough sell" cuts left over and with a little education I think our customers will really come to appreciate getting those cuts!

Like a said ... just a few more thoughts on the cuts vs. whole animal discussion ...

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Ashley said...

I've never heard of pay-as-it-grows, but I think that's a great idea. Forking over the cash for a whole pig at once is totally not feasible for a lot of people. I guess it's kind of like lay away!


Anonymous said...

Great info, thanks for expanding on that!

We have never raised pigs here yet but we did buy a half of pork from our friends this year. I loved the bulk sausage we got with it but their was only 5# of it. Is pork like beef in that you could have any unwanted cuts ground? If you have a decent market for sausage that might simplify things for you, if it's even possible. I intend to ask our processor next time because I'd much rather have more bulk sausage than all these ham roasts.

Walter Jeffries said...

We sell mostly cuts but mostly wholesale to local stores and restaurants instead of to individuals. This means that each week we deliver everything and then the store or restaurant stores it. The cost of that is we sell at a lower price selling wholesale than if we sold retail cuts.

In our case we deal primarily with standing orders at just a few dozen retailers, some who buy every week, some every other week, etc. Between them, over time this means we've been able to pretty much develop a route that sells the whole pig nose-to-tail such that each week all the meat goes right from the butcher to the customers and we have very little in our freezers.

Pork that doesn't sell goes to bacon, hams, sausage or hot dogs. Those are always in high demand and we never have enough. This helps balance if one restaurant changes its menu before another picks something up. But generally there is a waiting list for everything by the chefs and stores.

We don't focus on retail cuts because we're so far out of the way, off the beaten path so to speak.

I do like the whole pig sales as we make more per pig and it is somewhat simplified. The customer also gets a discount since they're buying the whole pig. Works for both of us. However I greatly appreciate that the retailers are manning the stores, storing the product and buffering the inventory so we don't have to.

Anonymous said...

Ethan, I couldn't agree more. I would add that a little education on the consumer's part makes the daunting prospect of dealing with half an animal into the fun and respectful gathering it should be. I thought my freezer would be full to the brim, instead I have a lot of meat that are the cuts I want, and sausage and bacon flavored how I like it. Even better I have ham and bacon air curing and taking up no space in the fridge or the freezer. One suggestion, find a friendly retired butcher to teach a class on breaking up a hog. Everyone who attends will be a future customer for both of you, and while maybe 1/3 will try and cut their own, most will be happy to pay the butcher. It is what got us started in sides of pork. I just wrote up our experience with half a hog... so your post is quite timely.

Good luck.

Art Blomquist said...

And interesting post. We're going through much the same process. Whole/Halfs are the way to go. The individual cuts have to be priced considerably higher.

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