Notice To Customers: The Problems with Pricing

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After months and months of crunching the numbers and being left with no other options, please accept this as notice that we’ll be increasing our pricing on some pork products as well as our eggs.

Now I could just pop up my new price signs and go along business as usual but with a goal of transparency, and since I know we have lots of new and soon-to-be farmers who follow along I thought I’d share the mistakes I made early on and the changes that have happened more recently that brought me to this point. This way hopefully, customers will have a better understanding of the true cost of food production on a scale like ours and that other farmers might not make the same mistakes I did.

So let’s jump on the ol’ time machine and go back to the very beginning!

Back when I started Central Park Farms, my goal was simply to raise a few chickens for my family so I could feel confident knowing where our meat was coming from, but under Jay’s advice I also decided to raise some extras to sell to friends and family to help offset my costs.

At the time, I was a 27 year old corporate business woman with a stellar salary and benefits package so by no means was this meant to supplement my income. More correctly my income would supplement this fun little side project meant to be a way to get connected to my own personal food system and for a little stress relief from my executive career. Keep in mind, I never meant to actually become a farmer… it just sort of happened. And I should add, it happened on land that at that time I didn’t pay for and with old equipment that I was able to use from Jay’s past commercial farming days so I had little overhead to set up for that first batch of chicks — No capital for feeders, or brooders, or water system needed. Jay admits now, he only expected I’d ever raise one batch of chickens and be done with it (joke’s on him!).

So my point to this was I didn’t feel I needed to price my products to make a living let alone pay other wages. And, as someone who had become so far removed from caring where my food was coming from, I was really concerned that people wouldn’t be interested in supporting my little side business because it was so inconvenient. At the time, I only sold whole chickens and you had to call to arrange a time to come pick up which then led me to having to call Jay to meet some lovely lady at the house at a specific time with a frozen roaster chicken under his arm to make a strange meat-for-cash drug deal in our driveway. PS a special thank you to all the customers who have been with us since then — You mean so much to our success!

After a few months of only selling whole chickens, I decided I needed bacon in my life again I added pork. Here’s BIG mistake number one: With zero experience to tap into when it came to pork, I priced myself low to match some other very small scale farmers.

Any new or want-to-be farmers reading this please pay close attention to this… MANY small scale producers have NO idea the costs involved in raising animals and producing meat. Just like I didn’t at the time. The trouble is, I didn’t know enough about the farming community at the time to realize that. We need to take into account that some are just trying to raise enough to hit status to save money on their property taxes and therefore don’t really care to make money on the meat, because they just need to sell $2,500 gross farm sales annually and they’ll save thousands on their property taxes — That’s where they make the money. Then there are those who simply don’t have a good handle on their numbers and the true costs of food production. You can see where the problem only increases as more and more new farmers follow this same pricing strategy. So say it with me, don’t price match simply to price match.

Knowing now, what I didn’t know then, I would have looked up the stats on breeds, and feed conversions, and live weight to hanging to cut weight ratios, and feed prices. I would have better researched butchery prices and abattoir rates.

But, I didn’t. Instead I researched what other farmers were selling for and found some on the mid to low end and matched to them. Remember, I only wanted to help cover some of my costs for my own meat, not run a business.

As I grew in both farming knowledge and in sales, it became pretty obvious that I had underpriced myself on the pork front. Thankfully, with Jay’s experience in poultry I didn’t run into that problem with chicken. That man can spit out feed conversions and cost of production stats on birds like nobody’s business.

Luckily for me, I was always able to float my poor pork pricing on my other products but if I was only raising pigs I feel confident I’d have closed the doors by now. However, that’s unfortunately no longer the case because our costs have increased a great deal this last year or two.

Here’s a few that have caused significant impact — And due to no fault of our suppliers, their costs also increase:

  • Feed costs, the high-quality non-GMO feed we supplement our layer hens with has increased dramatically. It also increased for our meat birds but I was able to offset those costs by switching to bulk feed.

  • Butchery costs, as their prices have increased on things like raw ingredients, as well the depth of our product line has increased we’ve had to weather price increases.

  • Fuel prices, an issue we all unfortunately deal with and this farm is no different. The costs to drive to farmers markets, haul animals, run generators at market, and even the impact it makes on delivery charges for everything from hay to shavings impacts our bottom line.

So starting this week you’ll see changes to some (but not all) of our pork prices and well as the cost for a dozen eggs from our pasture raised will increase to $7 which is in line with others raising pastured eggs on quality feed and less than some store brands. Our chicken and beef pricing will remain the same.

One other change you might notice on our pricing list is we have switched over the prices of sausages, pepperoni, and ground to a flat price per pack since they’re just there’s only pennies difference when we go by weight. As we’ve seen growth in our online store we’ve realized pricing those as a flat rate will be much easier for us to pack your orders in a timely manner.

The nitty gritty on rolling out our new prices is that we’re not peeling stickers so whatever inventory we have in stock, will remain at the previous prices (hint, hint, go hit up the online store to stock up).

Well, if you made it to the end of this novel I appreciate it. I hope you found this informative and that this new pricing doesn’t make our pork unobtainable for your family.

Kendall ~ Boss Chick at Central Park Farms

Kendall Ballantine