Local Meats for the Cities
This project now has it's own blog - www.themeats.ca
What do we want to create?
A new business structure; a unique meat value chain selling local, sustainable meats to cities
Demonstrating a new business model uniquely suited for a sustainable local food economy
- The structure will be organized, supported and overseen by a non profit organization (ARSAN) through ownership of the brand
- The chain will have to have its own board with representation of ARSAN and all chain business partners
- ARSAN will provide starting business know-how, quality assurance along the chain and promotion/marketing fo the brand
- If successful, the chain can be replicated by ARSAN at other locations under selective and flexible franchising arrangements
- Preferably, the chain is anchored on both ends by two separate cooperatives created by livestock farmers and urban consumers. These have their own business entities but also have seats on the board of the non-profit organization overseeing the chain
- A farmer cooperative will raise livestock and an urban cooperative will operate a retail centre. The remaining parts of the chain: slaughter, meat storage, meat cutting, production of processed meats can be owned and operated by one or both of the cooperatives or by independent local entrepreneurs
- Consumers are on the top of the chain instead of corporate retailiers. When retailers are primarily interested in maximizing their profits at the expense of other parts of the chain, urban consumers are primarily interested in keeping flow of sustainable meats reaching them and thus more open for keeping more equitable split of earnings along the chain.
- Meats and poultry are the products of the chain, but once the structure is established the chain can be expanded by inclusion of all other local sustainable foods
- The proposed new brand represents meat qualities described by Principles of Sustainable Foods
- Traditional nutrition based on principles represented by the Weston A. Price Foundation will be promoted and products that represent these principles will be sold through the chain
- The full range of livestock and poultry raised in Alberta will be represented in the offer; the proportion of supply of different types of livestock will be dictated by consumer demand
- Edmonton will be the first city targeted to form the urban cooperative. Geographic recruitment of farmers will depend on the location of the meat plant; its identification and availability for the project must be arranged first
- Multi-location slaughter of red meat livestock and poultry can be considered for operations to allow for cost effectiveness, having better control of operations of the entire chain, improved animal welfare and higher meat quality
- The urban retail centre needs to be more than a meat, and later a food shop. It should also provide at least limited food service but also be a place where supporters of sustainable foods can connect, learn, meet people involved in the chain operations and each other
- There are three reasons why meat and poultry was chosen as as ARSAN's business demonstration project:
- Meat forms the economic backbone of the food trade and, in most households, it is also central to their diets
- Meat and poultry supply can be arranged through the whole year unlike local vegetables and fruits thus making urban retail more feasible
- Meat is also besides dairy the most heavily regulated food and difficult business to run for small, independent farm entrepreneurs but easier to properly arrange by the proposed structure
Connections with other ARSAN’s projects
Sustainable Food Learning Centre is covering the whole spectrum of our diet, which includes sustainable meats and poultry and exploring traditional food processing technologies is its central goal. There is a great advantage for the Local Meats for the City project in its connection to operations of the Sustainable Food Learning Centre. Work done at the Centre can serve as an extension of the Local Meats for the Cities project. It can test and promote products already being sold and experiment with new products that can be included by the proposed chain in their market offer.
What is unique about this project?
- The local meat value chain that is organized and overseen by a non-profit organization committed to development of the local food system
- Tying two different cooperatives: farmers and urban consumers in a reciprocal food supply link
- The market offer of the largest variety of meats and poultry available in Alberta and potential to keep these meats available through the entire year
- All livestock i raised according to sustainability principles and the chain has a good level of control over livestock husbandy methods
- Offering meat products that are made according to the principles of traditional nutrition and could be endorsed by the Weston A. Price Foundation
- The proposed brand will represent many unique meat qualities and features of the business itself that have a huge marketing potential and can easily generate a lot of free publicity
- Possibility of using multi-location slaughter facilities for red meats and poultry
- Business relations and internal price structure along the chain are going to be overseen and facilitated by the impartial non-profit organization
- The proposed structure will level-off power among the chain partners
- All partners will have “all eggs in the same basket” (they will be of comparable sizes) which must make them strongly committed to making the chain work
- The chain will offer a high level of business guarantee for involved farmers to sell their livestock at prices that should be resistant to global market fluctuations. It should be able to define in advance expectations as for the number of animals raised
- The temptation for the chain partners to grow and build riches, which often destroyes the initial, well intended business projects, will be eliminated. Every chain will stay in the original size, focusing on making its offer better and improve service.
- When the chain does not offer opportunites to become rich, it has the potential, more so than any other business structure, to assure that its participating partners can make a good living and sustain it, even when economic times get worse
- There is a big potential for the concept to grow but the growth will be horizontal, achieved by starting new chains at different locations. These will be based on the same principles, selling under the same brand, benefiting from the experience of other chains, yet, their operations will be adjusted to local specifics.
- Initially approximately 20 farm families, but later many more and not just farms raising livestock but also those producing wider selection of local sustainable foods
- Large number of urban consumers gaining more convenient access to buying a wide range of affordable, local, sustainable and healthy meats, poultry and eventually all sustainable local foods
- Meat/food entrepreneurs who can make a good living that may be more resistant to market and economy fluctuations
- Potential employees of the retail and other parts of the chain
- Rural communities where participating farmers and rural meat enterprises are located
- All families and individual people who will take advantage of the more convenient and expanding market offer of healthy meats, meat products and other sustainably produced and processed foods, of which consumption can lead to improved people's health
- The society as the project will contribute towards longer-term food security
How far has the project progressed?
- Initial concept of the project has been developed
- Cooperative Development Initiative (CDI) grant of $66,000 was approved to do the preliminary work on the project. The grant money is available until December 2012.
- Detailed information regarding construction and use of multi-location abattoirs was acquired
- Initial work on meat products formulations have been done
- Potential availability of a provincially inspected meat plant located in the vicnity of Edmonton has been identifed
- Initial pilot test run of six processed meats products for market sampling was conducted at Sangudo Custom Meats plant
- The brand name was chosen: THE Meats where THE stands for Taste, Health and Ethical (also Ecological) attributes of the meat products offered and brand log was developed
- Testing of market acceptance of the proposed brand was conducted at four different farmer markets in Edmonton and Sherwood Park.
- The True Taste of ARSAN event was organized in November 2011 in Edmonton. The brand was introduced to over 100 participants who mostly represented the target urban market and their opinions about the brand gathered. Examples of traditionally processed meats were presented to the audience.
- The CDI grant was readjusted and approved for a reduced scope and funding. This expires in December 2012
- Market Testing of the THE Meats brand was prepared
- A detailed document Business Opportunity that outlines fundamentals of the project has been written.
- The blog for the projects www.themeats.ca. was designed and made available to the public. All relevant information was placed on and available through the blog.
- A summarizing meeting was held in Edmonton, attended by ARSAN, local farmers and city food activists and entrepreneurs. The project and its future was discussed.
- The project completed its idea development stage. All relevant information was placed on the blog and available to the public. ARSAN doesn't actively pursue this project any more. It doesn't have the resources to push it further. Besides that, ARSAN is primarily educational organization and is strongly focused on developing and presenting new ideas for sustainable alternatives.
What support and resources will we be looking for?
- To move the project further there wll have to be people interested in driving it further and organizing the proposed value chain. These can be people from both ends of the proposed value chain: livestock farmers willing to create a cooperative that will supply the chain or, mor likely, urban entrepreneurs who want to start the retail centre and can help organize the other parts of the chain. If that happens, ARSAN can be again involved in chain development.