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A $1200 Pig?!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Buying local food is gonna send me to the poorhouse!
Don't get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of local and slow food, and, I truly appreciate the work it takes to raise organic, hormone-free, delicious pigs....

But some of these people in the farmer's markets are loosing it! You just can't try and sell whole, unbutchered pigs for $4.50 a pound! I don't care if Saint Thomas Keller did buy some pigs from you once.
Often, I spend some time in the eastern part of our state to get away, and hang out on a friends farm. The last time I was out there I overheard a few farmers laughing about how they can sell their produce for 3 times as much in Seattle, than in the rest of the state (at farmer's markets). At the time I thought, "Good for them, they work hard" and I still feel that way, but "local and Organic" are becoming such buzz words here on the West coast prices are just climbing and climbing, the smaller your operation, the more expensive it is.

Now, I ABSOLUTELY believe in paying for quality, but I'm wondering if agriculture was really not designed to work this way. Much like if I had a restaurant with only 2 tables, I would have to charge $400 a person just to make ends meet.
So, if you have a very small farm, by design, you will have to charge a premium for your product. And when everyone is charging a premium, it sets a new price standard. Then when the next guy comes along, he sees what the standard is and feels that his is of the highest quality and prices his even higher.

Logic would say that with rising fuel prices, local produce should be less expensive, but thats not how it works.

I want to support small farms, I really do. But lately when look at my produce bill, I just about have a heart attack.

As food prices climb around the world, how do we effect change in this situation? One would think that as restauranteurs we would have some influence on the market?

Jesus, people in Haiti cant even afford rice, it's $1 a pound.
nel maiale, tutto e buono!
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nel maiale, tutto e buono!
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post #2 of 15
of course we have the influence over the market... but unless we all act as one, we will fail...

if restaurants a b and c decide that no... we wont pay for the produce, restaurant d (and theres always a d) will pay, and then restaurants a b and c go out of business and its failed
post #3 of 15
WOW!!!! At those prices I'll go back into hog raising. I had some guys stop at my place and offer me $24 per hog for 300 lb hogs. That was about 9 years ago. Commercial hogs have been running around $67/cwt. Sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less.

Just don't pay the price. At some point the animal must go to market and the bigger it gets the lower the price per lb. Having raised hogs, I won't pay $20 for a pork chop dinner with 10oz of pork on the plate, because pork is just too inexpensive a product.
post #4 of 15
$17 of the $20 you're paying is for other things. We need the extra margin on certain items to make up for other higher cost stuff like fish and rent. So if you enjoy eating pork, order it out next time and support the restaurant you like, because there's a whole kitchen full of people working hard to put that pork chop on the table.
Keep those fires burnin'
 
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Keep those fires burnin'
 
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post #5 of 15
Believe me Psycho Chef, I understand what you are saying. However, it really chapped my rear end to be getting paid 28 to 34 cents per pound for the hogs I raised and then go into a restaurant and see the pork chop dinner offered at $20 which included something like a baked potato. The beverage was extra. The salad was extra and dessert was extra.

The 28 to 34 cents per pound wasn't even the bottom of the market. It went down to 8 cents per pound. Did the price of pork anywhere come down? Most likely the middlemen saw lowered cost and still kept the price to the retailer and other food service outlets the same. The consumer saw little if any benefit from dirt cheap hogs.

I am in favor of farmers making a fair price for their products but the prices buonaboy mentioned are absolutely ludicrous and I would suggest refusing to pay that price. I can't imagine what price buonaboy would have to charge his customers if he paid $4.50 for whole unbutchered hogs??
post #6 of 15
it's so strange out there right now...
the economy is down. the poor are REALLY going hungry. the common man knows how the cost of food is skyrocketing and restaurant business is in most sectors down.
Yet the $$$ organic/local/green thing is in full effect.
Can you imagine during the great depression, people caring about whether the food they eat was grown in a 100 mile radius? pesticide free?
post #7 of 15
just butchered a 187# live weight pig that cost $106. delivered, cut in half, head in a bag. Great Pig.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 15
Buonoboy, I really think you must have that wrong. When you buy a pig on the hoof, it is being sold as a “breeder” (unless its under 50# then it would be a “feeder”) and that price might be accurate. There is a whole different set of rules & reg.s to buying a live pig.
$4.50/# is totally sound for “hanging weight” (gutted). You will get between 200-220# on most. I’m a nobody in the middle of nowhere raising organic, pastured pork and I get a minimum of $3.50/# hanging weight ... and I’m booked.

But your real question is an important one: “As food prices climb around the world, how do we effect change in this situation? One would think that as restauranteurs we would have some influence on the market?”
Without getting on my soapbox, I have some suggestions but they all take time and dedication:
1)join Chefs Collaborative. While at this time, they are not lobbists, they are real world supporters of farm-to-table systems.
2)Read Food Arts. You might pooh-pooh this free magazine but I have read some very pertinent articles and they consistently have information of farm-to-table type issues. I was particularly proud to see them advising chefs on what the new Farm Bill would mean to people like you.
3)Check out New Farm For Farmers | Rodale Institutein your surfing. They are lobbing for farm-to-table issues constantly. And you might be able to link up with a producer you are looking for on the forum or farm locator.

There is much, much discussion in this country about how to make “sustainable” affordable. In my mind, there is no way it will be until we stop subsidizing traditional farming. Sustainable farming is very much more costly. The main element of which is manhours: there is no substitute for hands-on, especially as each system is different based on the environment.
Think about this: All the cost of traditional farming: (disease and illness from toxic foods ...hey, I’ve got to rant a little!) pollution, erosion, inspection, recalls, etc... is passed on to the consumer in the form of taxes. When you buy a sustainably produced food, you are paying upfront for all the investment in the system that doesn’t produce those negative costs ... but then you’re also paying taxes which go to remedy the ills of the traditional system! Double whammy. Did you know that in Europe they subsidize Organic and not traditional farming?

I think your analogy about the 2-top restaurant is spot-on though. It is hot and fashionable to be a sustainable farmer, so you do have to do your research to find the ones that can compete. You know how a successful restauranter would know to make a 3 year business plan (incorporating operating expenses) for opening a new place? Just look for the producer who has been around for at least that long, the learning curve is about the same.

Shroomgirl, do you mean the cost of butchering? To get a pig to $187# it would have taken 655 pounds of feed ... so if you paid $106 for the pig, you paid $.16/# for the feed, nothing for the breeding, time or expenses of raising it? I dont think so; you can't even get chicken scratch for $.16/#. (Sheesh, just the semen for one litter is $115 these days, ha!)
post #9 of 15
delivered 100 miles too.....Hinkebein Hills Farm (573) 332-8530.
not organic but no hormones/antibiotics, family farm where the pigs live on soil, heirloom breeds mixed for their various qualities....his pork is tasty and several chefs in town purchase from him.:chef:
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
No, I'm pretty sure I have it right. A slaughtered, whole pig, innards included
275# for $1200 bucks is outrages.
I get my Carlton Farms, organic, naturally fed ones for between $1.67 and $2.20 depending on the weight.
Since my original posting, I've heard this same topic brought up on NPR, (not the pig specifically, but organic produce in general Basically, the farmers interviewed justified it by stating that the rest of the world pays much a higher percentage of their income on food and its about time the US catches up.
In principal I can get behind that, I guess.; If people have too spend more on food, they might invest a little more thought in what they eat, thus having a greater respect and appreciation for nutrition and quality. Unfortunately thats not how it works, here, in The Land Of Convenience. As food pries go up, McD's just puts more things on their $1 menu, praying on the poor and poisoning them in return. This S@#% gets me so angry, screw this, I'm moving to Spain
-ciao
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post #11 of 15
So you're paying $400-500 a whole pig, USDA inspected killed, organic, delivered to your door, cut in half, head in a bag, liver/heart in a bag, cut down the spine. that's about 3.5-5 times what I'm paying for a non-organic version (oh mine is not feed animal by products).

So it gets down to using all the pig. Or as a buddy who just sold his restaurant after about 30 years in the biz to his daughter and is forming a local produce brokerage business......he's going to be going out on farms, carrying and using a cell phone which he escewed in the past, buying and selling, trying to make a living with gas escalating.

I've been giving away canning jars to buddies who put up product, just too many at my home......but I see canning as one of the ways to beat higher local food prices, buy culls or seconds and can um, freeze um, dehydrate them.....

There is a huge difference in price when you sell bits and pieces of a pig, prices drop significantly when you're the one breaking it down. I'll pay the $40 for a bone saw and $18 for a saber any day and do my own.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #12 of 15
Price for niche goods is set by market tolerance as much as by demand. Niche items like "local organic" command high prices in part because buyers PREFER to pay more for several reasons, including: Confirmation of the superiority of their purchases; and confirmation of their own superiority in wealth and taste. The vendor sets high prices for specialty items to attract these customers who perceive the high price as synonym for high quality.

It's an interesting economic phenomenon, where high price creates its own demand, and was first explored by the economist Sir Robert Geffen. The "Geffen good" phenomenon is actually a corollary of the "Geffen paradox," where lowering prices sometimes results in lowered demand. I observed this when I used to manufacture high-end audio cable (Pure Logic). The more I charged for my cable, the better it was generally perceived to be. It belonged in the top tier, because it most improved the sound of top tier systems. In order to place my product as the value leader of the top tier, I had to price it up to the top tier to attract top-tier retailers and customers.

In this case the producer ensures himself a market by pricing his pork up to the niche, "farmers' market," customer. Many of these customers not only wants to know that the pig was fed well, raised and slaughtered humanely in the customer's zip code; but was also well loved, given a name, an education, given lots of birthday presents, and ultimately mourned. The price is confirmation of the farmer's passion.

It's not dishonest or rapacious, it's only marketing. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. If you don't feel the pig is worth the price, don't pay it. If the vendor negotiates, negotiate. If you can get it cheaper elsewhere, get it cheaper elsewhere (you almost always can by driving out to wherever it's slaughtered). It's not a conspiracy. It's not a rip-off. It's not personal. It's just someone trying to make an honest buck in a strange and free market.

BDL
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Shroomgirl,

I agree completely. The main reason I get whole hog in is for all the goodness that comes of if. I feel that it's our responsibility to use EVERY ounce of a pig when we butcher, we cure pancetta, make sausage, salami, and summer sausages, tongue in cheek terrine, rillettes, head cheese(though I'm still working on a recipe that Ill fall in love with for that) and then finally, pork stock and consume.
I think canning and preserving are going to make a real comeback in the near future, I've got 2 cases of Meyer Lemons in salt right now, hopefully it will be enough to last until next season. Last year I read "The Country Kitchen" by Della Lutes, published in 1936, it's about a girl growing up in rural Michigan in the turn of the century. The book is full of recipes and describes in detail a year in the life of a self sustained farm family. From seed ordering and planting, to harvesting, crop rotation, cooking and canning. It made a huge impression on me, I can really see the food world, in the US, coming full circle someday. Gardening for your family's food is getting more and more popular, as well as the interest in curing and canning. That may mean a drastic decline in successful restaurants someday, and curtains for my career, but I'll trade that for a better quality if living.
-ciao
nel maiale, tutto e buono!
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post #14 of 15
Something to keep in mind here is that if you expect to produce top quality food, you can't start with less than top quality produce.
You can't can second or culled produce; you'll waste your time(labor) with mismatched sizes and cutting our bad spots and then it will spoil.
You cant start with runts or old pigs with too much fat or your food cost will be too high (low percentage of meat/usuable parts and why we shoot for a butcher weigth of 250-280#)
Unless you are just doing this for fun and them why worry about much it costs?
post #15 of 15
It's a balancing act. Do I butcher for fun, sure....would I continue to butcher and buy whole pigs if they did not sell, probably not at the volume I do now.
As to culls and seconds.....what is a cull to someone maybe desirable to me. An example would be garlic scapes, until 2001 they were pitched into the compost pile. I talked some farmers into bringing them to market and they sold. Huit Lacoche is a big one.....farmers just bring it to me because they still have a negative conotation with it. I've told them it's desirable and they shrug, laugh and hand it to me as a "gross" gift.
Tomatoes.....during tomato season so many of the tomatoes that don't sell will end up on the compost......they are ripe and need to be used ASAP.
Hens that are too old become stock.
Tammworth Sows that reach 400# become lining for pate molds.
Raspberries/strawberries that are less than perfect and don't command top dollar are made into sauce or jam.
tiny brussel sprouts the size of peas are just as tasty and cute as can be.

What I pay on a farm usually alot cheaper than what I paid at market....the farmer's markets I started were premium markets and set up as such.

Do I pay top dollar, depends on what it is and what it's for.....and how much there is available....gooseberries, name your price I'll pay it......may not buy alot but I'll buy some. Frais du bois ditto, Golden Raspberries.....

A foraging friend just taught me about wild black raspberries in the area, I'll probably go out this year. Cost is gas and time.

There are farmers selling asparagus for $4 a pound, others $1.50 a pound....both good, guess which I'm buying.....but then I shop 3 farmer's markets and know what most of the farmers raise, how they raise it and when it should be at market.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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