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Monday, February 6, 2017

Selling Your Chickens

Dear Small Flockers:

We are an artisanal farmer who grew chicken last year. We still have quite a bit of chicken left that we processed in November. They were grown free range and on a vegetable based feed. They average 4.5 lbs dressed and they are frozen and whole in vacuum packaging. 

Do you know of anyone looking for free range chicken?

We are just deciding how much to grow this year. Any help would be appreciated. 

Thanks,
 
Dear Artisanal Chicken Farmer:
 
Thanks for contacting me.

When CFO announced the Artisanal Chicken program, I had a tough decision to make:  stay Small Flock, or become an Artisanal Chicken farmer.  Everybody told me the customers would beat a path to my door, so I applied for and was authorized to raise 3,000 chickens last year, the max. available.

I decided to do grass pastured, free range chickens as I feel this is the best opportunity, the type of chickens people want the most, people are willing to pay a premium price, and have much less competition with the commercial, factory farm chickens that are sometimes sold as a "lost leader" in grocery stores (as low as $1.49 per lb).  Statistics Canada reports the average fresh whole chicken retail price in Ontario in 2015 is $6.69/kg ($3.04/lb).  The average price for 2016 was $6.59/kg ($3.00 per lb.), down an average of 4.03% per year.


In my home town market, the historic market leader for commercial, locally grown barn raised chickens are raised and sold at $3.85/lb in 2016.  I decided to sell our chickens at $4.50/lb, then backed off to $3.85/lb for fresh, never frozen (only available the 2 days after we go to the abattoir).  I now sell frozen chickens at $4.50/lb due to the higher cost to freeze and store them long term.  In Ottawa, they sell grass pastured whole chickens at $6.00/lb. in retail stores.

When I ask other Artisanal Chicken farmers: "Is it tougher to grow them, or sell them?", everybody agrees selling is the tougher nut to crack.

Unfortunately, I too have many chickens raised in 2016 that I still need to sell.  When I calculate that my first flock was available to sell in June 2016, and the last was November 2016, and my next flock thereafter will only be ready in June 2017, so there is a 7 month hibernation when frozen chicken must supply the local demand.  At the rate of sale from June to Nov. 2016, if I project that same rate for the 7 months of winter 2016-2017, I come very close to 3,000 chickens total that will be sold.  That calculation suggest that my freezers will run empty just as the first flock of 2017 is ready to go to the abattoir.  Therefore, maybe I shouldn't worry.

However, projections to the future are very inaccurate.  Rather than trust in this bare hope for the future, I suggest a proactive approach.

Here are some ideas to get your Artisanal chickens sold (* marks the ones I have personally done or tried to do for my farm):
  1. * Local radio station spot ads
  2. * Google Adwords ads
  3. * Internet website
  4. * Internet Blog postings (daily or weekly)
  5. * Facebook
  6. * Twitter
  7. * Local newspaper ads
  8. * Letters to Editor for local newspaper
  9. Op-Ed article in local newspaper
  10. * Year-round "farmers markets".
  11. * Local seasonal Farmer's Markets and other rural markets
  12. * Local butcher shops
  13. * Convenience stores
  14. * Local restaurants
  15. * Local hotel restaurants & conference centres
  16. Banquet halls
  17. * Catering companies
  18. * Grocery Stores
  19. Wedding planners and their clients
  20. * Abattoirs that have retail/wholesale meat shops attached thereto
  21. * Meat wholesalers
  22. * Halal community (must be decided before abattoir, and killed in conformity thereto)
  23. * Kosher community (must be decided before abattoir, and killed in conformity thereto; much more demanding than Halal, needs Kosher certification by COR or equivalent)
  24. * On-line Internet Marketing
  25. * CSA (Community Support Agriculture)
  26. * Food Hubs
  27. * Organic food stores
  28. * Local food stores
  29. Farmer Co-ops
  30. Community presentations at local halls where you invite the public to learn about sustainable farming, then sample your roasted chicken, and can place an order
  31. * Partner with a local appliance store for a 10%+ discount for your customers to buy a freezer to store their own food, then fill it with your produce.
  32. Home food delivery route
  33. Buy a used propane fired convection oven, put it in an enclosed utility trailer, find a grid of sites (every compass point) around your farm where you can go to sell roast chicken (whole roasted chicken to take home, or 1/4 chicken dinners for one person), advertise that you will be at that site on a regular basis arranged in a sequence that doesn't rob customers today from where you will be next time.  Start small so you are sure to sell out, or you can eat your unsold product excess (or sell it as frozen cubed chicken pieces for chicken Caesar salads or stir frys).  Record the time of each sale.  As soon as you sell out, leave a sign that late arriving customers know they missed out, call this # to reserve a chicken for next week, and head home with your cash.  Based on your sale rate, estimate how many chickens you can sell in a reasonable time on location.
  34. Food truck selling quarter chicken dinners at local fairs, hockey tournaments, and other events.
  35. * Canada Post flyer advertising a chicken sale with the coupon flyer
  36. * Enter your info for free into SFPFC's chicken farmer database, so customers can easily find you (see http://canadiansmallflockers.blogspot.ca/p/small-flockers-database.html )
  37. Other
Perhaps Arisanal Chicken Farmers (and/or Small Flock Chicken Farmers) can work co-operatively on solving this marketing challenge.

I ask everybody, Small Flockers and Artisanal Chicken Farmers, to use the comments section below to share their favorite sales & marketing method, or comment on the above.

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