Looking to buy meat online for the first time? It can be a daunting leap of faith buying your meat unseen.
More and more items are being taken out of the weekly/monthly supermarket shop and being bought online from specialists and meat is increasingly one of them.
Whether you are looking for grass fed organic meat or the cheapest wholesale meat deals, there are a few things to consider before you make your first online meat purchase.
What's different about buying meat online?
We 'eat with our eyes' and with meat this is especially true. We can't help our instant response to what meat looks like and our judgement whether it's suitable to eat. Buying meat online and therefore unseen can feel like a risk.
Another key difference online is pricing. Picture yourself walking up to one of the meat chills in your local supermarket. No doubt a wide range of cuts and products but if you look more closely, you'll see that most meat is priced by weight so there will be small variations in the price of every pack.
Bigger variations occur with bone in meat products such as whole chickens or bone in leg cuts but it's less of an issue for chopped or mince products as guide weights are easier to be exact.
Online meat sellers have to accomodate these differences and offer one price per product.
Is buying meat online at good idea?
We sell meat online so we're obviously going to say yes but here's why.
Buying your meat online allows farmers and livestock producers to sell their meat directly to you with no middle men, enhancement or shelf life extension.
What's more there can be tangible benefits in quality, freshness and proximity to source through buying your meat online.
Buying direct from local farmers ensures you're getting genuine provenence with real knowledge of the animal and the life it has had, what it has eaten and how it has lived.
We all know every product we buy has a story, whether we like it or not and going to direct to your local farmer allows you to be involved in that story. Somewhat romantic perhaps but it's also true.
Here's 3 other considerations:
1.Reducing wastage and resources
Meat is a delicate product, requiring a temperature controlled enviroment, sensitive handling and is very perishable. Essentially a nightmare for logistics and easy movement. Modern advances in packaging and couriers has helped distribution improve and costs reduce but it's not a simple or cost effective product to move about.
Buying direct from farmers removes third parties, processors and supermarkets. Your supply chain is so much shorter that you are reducing food miles, fuel, refridgeration and wastage.
2. Eat local, buy local
If you choose to buy directly from your local farmers, you'll be buying into and supporting a local economy in a very direct way. You know your local farmer will be creating jobs in your local area as meat processing is such a labour intensive business.
Here at Puddledub we know how labour intensive meat production can be with so many of our products being hand made. Large scale operations provide economies of scale but meat is a delicate product whose taste and texture can be damaged with too much mechanisation.
3. Big reduction in the cost of sale
Online meat delivery allows you to get closer to source. A simple ecommerce site facilitates sales directly from farmers. Take this website for instance. It's not fancy but does the job we need it to.
Choosing who to buy your meat from?
Buying meat directly from the farmer is one way to buy your meat online but there are other ways of making a meat purchase.
An increasingly popular way is to use a online butcher website which is more of an aggregrate site using a number of farmers and suppliers. In this case it's important to take some time to look through their credentials and sourcing.
Take time to consider the following:
1. Is your meat being supplied fresh or frozen?
Dispatching meat frozen helps with stock control as the shelf life is longer and the frozen product is more robust to transport. However it then reduces the customers cooking options and they won't have any fresh meat to use.
Here at Puddledub, all our products (except the Gluten Free Steak Pies) are dispatched fresh. We do this because we believe this greatly enhances the taste, texture and flavour of our meat.
2. What is their frequency of delivery?
Greater frequency isn't necessarily a good thing. Multiple delivery options requires a lot of stock, a lot of perishable short shelf life stock. It's also worth considering if your product is out of stock, what substitutes will you offered?
3. Who are these people?
Be a discerning shopper. Have a look at their credentials. How many farmers do they have supplying them? Where is their meat coming from? Are any products reassuringly out of stock? Local meat supply chains may be short but lead times are obviously long. Creating more product instantly isn't an option unless substitute suppliers are used.
So to wrap up, there are many factors to consider when selecting to buy your meat online. As with many things, there are pros and cons and you need to evaluate what's most important to you. What you may gain in convenience, you may lose in quality and proximity to source.
Buying meat online is like many other online purchases. It's not risk free but if you do your homework and research your supplier whether its an online butcher or local farmer, it could be the start of a long and delicious relationship.
Jo Mitchell is a member of the Mitchell family and helps market Puddledub. Mum of 2 boys and living on the family farm helps Jo tell the story of farm life and provenance as well as sampling many of Puddledub's gluten free products.