Selling meat over the internet may not yet be vying for a huge percentage of the overall beef, lamb and pork market but it is on the increase where customers are looking for something that offers greater flavour, usually from native breeds.
Meat specialists N Bramall & Son of Near Coates Farm, Oxspring took the plunge six years ago when Noel Bramall launched his Eat Great Meat website and in common with others who are involved in the meat trade he is seeing its business continuing a gradual upward trend.
“We came up with the name Eat Great Meat as each word craftily includes the word ‘eat’ and our trade is growing as more customers find us. You don’t keep everybody but we retain a large proportion and get to know what they are looking for.
“There is a naïve feeling that you simply put something on your site and the produce will sell because what you have is what people are looking for, but there’s far more to it than that.
“Somebody told me that starting out trying to sell something regularly on the internet was like having a shop in a dark alley. Nobody knows it is there and that means you have to drive people to it. Once customers find you the job is then retaining them through regular interaction, but before you get to that you need a reason for them to find you.
“We’ve attracted people using Google Adwords but you have to be very careful on your budgeting and I’ve found that the more specific you are the less it costs you, but you will also get less clicks than if you just use generic terms.
“Business is not all about the number of clicks though as you can have thousands of clicks from people who are not really interested. It’s about using the words that define what people are really looking for because generic words are often not specific enough.”
Once Noel has the customers his life is then a great deal easier. He offers a 10 per cent discount on the first three orders and people sign up for his weekly email which brings in the repeat orders. He’s getting to know customers from hundreds of miles away that he could never have sold to previously.
“It’s a bit like it must have been when my granddad Norman used to go out with his travelling shop. He’d get to know his customers and be able to find out from them what they liked and what they wanted in future weeks. We can now do that but over a much wider geographic area.”
Three years ago Noel took over what was Wortley Farm Shop a handful of miles from Near Coates Farm and brought Eat Great Meat to it as his brand. This now offers a ‘click and collect’ service for local internet orders as well as adding an actual butcher’s shop, but the family business is still largely a wholesale concern with the abattoir at Oxspring killing 300 cattle, 300 sheep and 100 pigs a week.
“Our main customers through the meat processing side are the cutting plants who box the meat and sell it to butchers and killing stock for farm shops’ own animals. We have seven lorries delivering as far afield as Somerset and Wales. We also have a lorry that comes from Holland each week for beef.
“Our internet sales of Eat Great Meat are very small in comparison to the rest of our business but sales of such as Angus beef are growing through the website. People like the local aspect of our meat as the majority of what we have is from farmers we know in our area.
“The internet market seems to be much more about darker meat and marbling. There is also an interest in learning more about breeds, where they come from originally and how they are reared. We’re able to extol the virtues of slow maturing cattle and of hanging meat in a dry environment for 21-28 days.”
Noel believes that, through a continued growth in online sales of quality meat, plus an increase in the number of butchers who have learned to brand themselves well and who are providing a better service, the control the supermarkets have on the market can be loosened.
“Getting closer to the end user and providing what every individual customer wants is what our business is all about. Through an increasing internet market and people going to butchers who care about the meat they sell there is a chance we can all wrestle some control back from the supermarkets.”
N Bramall & Son was started by Norman with the son in the title being Noel’s dad Michael. They have previously won a Yorkshire Post Taste Award for one of their pork chops with the pork coming as it always does from Steve Richardson’s Duroc X Landrace herd at Great Houghton.