Invoking the power of producers. That’s the intent captured in the name of Meatocracy, a new app that allows livestock producers to market their meat directly to customers.
“There’s other online services out there that source, for example, from a producer or multiple producers. But then they’ll do the mark-up and sell under their own brand,” says Lyndon Lisitza, app creator.
Lisitza says they wanted to give producers an opportunity to market and sell their products through the app, which launched June 26. For now, Lisitza is focusing on recruiting producers, as it will be easier to market to consumers once there are plenty of sellers.
Lisitza says they initially focused on Alberta and Saskatchewan, arranging Zoom meetings with the staff at Sask Stock Growers Association and Alberta Beef Producers to garner industry support. But the app is now available to producers across North America. At interview time in mid-July, 62 producers had signed up and 14 operations had completed their storefronts.
Producers need to create their own store in the app, which isn’t “incredibly difficult,” says Lisitza. Once producers have signed up, they need to determine their market radius, he says. For example, some producers are selling to customers within a 150 km to 200 km radius. Producers also need to decide whether they’ll sell by pick-up only or offer delivery. The app allows them to set a delivery fee, based on a flat fee or per km, or offer free delivery with a minimum order size. Producers then need to build a product inventory, which can be anything from only offering eighths or quarters to a complete line of cuts.
Meatocracy’s online payment system will deposit money directly into producers’ accounts. Lisitza says they will take seven per cent cut on sales, and credit card companies take another 2.99 per cent cut.
Lisitza says Meatocracy is an option for operations of all sizes. Producers with a range of direct-marketing experience have signed up for the app, from those who have never direct-marketed before to savvy marketers who already have a large following.
Lisitza grew up on a farm near Porcupine Plain, Sask., and earned a grad degree in ag economics from the University of Saskatchewan. He uses that economic background to approach market issues and ask how they can be solved. He sees packing industry concentration as an issue, with producers bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and a disconnection between prices at the farmgate and grocery store.
Lisitza acknowledges that export markets are important, and the industry needs packers to absorb many cattle.
“But even if we can get upwards of five per cent of someone’s total inventory sold in a different manner, and give them an alternative, and give them a better price…I think that’s a win.”
Meatocracy was in the works before the pandemic, but COVID-19 changed the time-frame “substantially,” he says. An “uptick in demand at the local level” was also part of what pushed the app, along with a desire to “localize” the supply chain. Money spent by customers goes back to producers and therefore to local businesses such as abattoirs, he notes.
Ultimately, producers know their margins better than anyone, he adds.
“If we can provide them with a storefront and give them an opportunity to sell their product…and give them as much power as possible in decision-making — the process for deciding how they want to do it, how they want to label, how they want to brand, how they want to price — I think that’s a better option.”