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Discussion Starter #1
I read alot of posts about people that finish on apples or nuts. There are seasonal things that I've though about growing to finish on. If your just growing for your own consumption I guess consistency doesn't matter but if your marketing pork as a finished product how do you deal with it?

I think that we'd all agree that winter isn't a great time to farrow. Then you see highlands post that he takes feeders to market every week. How do you deal with that?

I've spoke with several chefs about getting my pork in their resturants and the buggiest thing they mention is consistency. I've been told multiple times that you'll only get one chance to get an in with a resturant so don't sell me one till I can supply their demands.

Others can post questions if they want but I guess my buggest question is how do you market a consistent product in changing seasons/conditions?
 

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Foundation of our pig's diet is pasture. In the winter that changes to hay. There is some seasonality to the flavor of the pigs but the pasture produces a good base. There will be some variations seasonally but since the pasture is around 80% of their diet that is reasonably consistent.

This is very different from where someone finishes for the last month by just giving one particular feed like corn. If you feed one thing as the dominant feed for a month you will be able to change the flavor. After about three months there isn't any additional change.

My guess is that variations in flavor a caused by having large variations in the feed like switching the last month to a huge amount of apples or pumpkins or corn, etc.

What I observe with our pigs on pasture is that when presented with a dump crate of spent barley or apple pomace for example they get very excited and eat a bunch. Then they go back to eating the pasture. The apple and such really only made up a small amount of their total diet over the course of time. This results in the consistency of the flavor.

On the other hand, if you all of a sudden in the fall had an unlimited supply of something for a month and stopped feeding the pasture and just fed that thing (e.g., apples, pumpkins, etc) you would change the flavor. I've done trials of this. For us it's too much work and not a reward since the pasture base diet gives us what we want and what our customers expect.

Feed for flavor.
Flavor is in fat.
Figure a base.

There is another consistency issue for the stores and restaurants that has nothing to do with flavor: constantly delivering week in and week out. That is hard. It takes a lot of pigs. It takes time to grow into. It takes having systems setup for producing piglets year round (winter is _very_ hard), growing them year round (winter is hard) trucking pigs to butcher, working with a reliable butcher weekly, delivering meat weekly, packaging, labeling, licenses, etc. It's something to grow into slowly but also hard to make that jump from occasional to regular that the wholesale customers need for their shelves and menus.

Once you have all that working be sure not to buy too many freezers. Otherwise you'll fill them. Meat sitting in your freezer is costing you money. You need to be selling pretty close to the whole pig every single week. You probably can't handle an order for 30 tenderloins - there are only two on a pig and what are you going to do with all those trotters, hocks, hams, etc suddenly. Everyone seems to want the high-on-the-hog cuts but you have to sell the low-on-the-hog cuts to make your profit.

Another seasonality issue is that the stores and restaurants do not take product consistently. They have seasons like Thanksgiving through New Years which is a high season for them where they sell a lot and then the winter doldrums of January and February where sales drop off but not to zero. To keep your self and menu space you still have to produce but flex. Then there's hams which go into high demand for the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter but are low in the summer. Ribs are high demand in the summer but low in the winter.

And of course, everyone wants fresh! This means you have to kill only part of the pig at a time. Now you understand why I have three legged pigs out in my fields. :) Seriously though, you have to learn to filter your sales. Remember what I said about not buying too many freezers. It's a devilish temptation.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I've talked to one person that said they couldn't sell hams well in the summer but ham luncheon meat sold well year round. At least with the hams you can grind the up and turn them into a range of products, I can eat brats alot more often then I care to eat ham.
 

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That's what we do, if a cut isn't selling out as whole cuts it goes to ground for plain ground, sausages, kielbasa, hot dogs. Hot dogs sell very well in the summer plus some to restaurants year round. This switching around is what makes selling the whole pigs feasible each week and prevents inventory from building up in the freezer.
 

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The one way I've found to market a consistent product throughout the year is to have the customer buy the whole animal. It took some time to get there but now I move 4 pigs per week to butchers,4 pigs per month to home delivery services and 3-4 pigs to local restaurants per month plus the 3 pigs per month we process ourselves for farmers markets. I even have a waiting list for two other butchers who each want to buy 2 pigs per week but I don't have enough pigs yet.
Another key in consistency is feed. Stick with the same feed that works for you to achieve the same carcass quality week in and week out.
 
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