View Full Version : Selling specialty produce, eggs, meat, etc. direct to restaurants?

Mar. 14, 2012, 05:05 PM
Just curious if anyone here is doing this, how you've approached it and how successful this has been for you.

If you've done this, what have you found to be most in demand?

Mar. 14, 2012, 09:30 PM
My neighbor and friend does this with organic produce, and we are actually planning to embark on the same endeavour. He said that you need to go to those restaurants, see what's on their menu, preferably in the warmer months, see what they have a lot of on the menu, research and call and ask to speak to the produce purchaser, which is often times the chef and just ask them what they need and go from there. He has had quite a bit of success here doing it that way.

Good luck to you! :)

Tamara in TN
Mar. 14, 2012, 09:46 PM
you need to check both the USDA regs and the state regs in your area....

you at the very least need to have a private label and have the meats stamped and inspected by the USDA inspectors for quality and cleanliness...

it's not too expensive to get labled ($1500 I wanna say when we looked at it before) now this is if you use a slaughter house....killing your own will require a bit more money and work


Mar. 14, 2012, 09:49 PM
I haven't done it, but I am a customer at a small suburban farm. They have less than 2 dozen head of adult cattle, probably a hundred chickens and a couple of acres of vegetables. It is small, they do not advertise other than a sign out on the road advertising what is hot right now. They tell me they can't keep up with the demand. They produce beef, eggs, young fryer chickens and vegetables. And a little fruit.
I would assume that if you are involved on a bigger scale then restaurants and farmer's markets are necessary. Depending on your state you might be able to make jams, jellies, pickled items etc. which usually sell well and prompt people to try it themselves. The law is against it here, but hopefully it will be overturned.

Daydream Believer
Mar. 14, 2012, 10:40 PM
The biggest problem with raising animals for meat for restaurants is that they generally want just part of the animal. For instance the restaurant might only want certain prime cuts like breast fillets of chicken or ribeye steaks for beef...so then you get stuck with the rest of the animal to use/sell or deal with. That isn't a big deal from an industrial point of view as they have economies of scale, but as a small producer, it is probably going to make it impossible to meet demand. There are only so many of whatever they'll want in each animal...so many ribeyes, or fillets, etc...and you'll have to have enough volume to keep up with their demand. That is usually where it becomes impossible for a small scale producer unless you have a restaurant that is willing to change it's menu seasonally and offer what is available. There are some restaurant's like that today but they will be the small specialty places you'll have to work hard to get into.

Polyface Farm, a larger scale local food producer her in VA, is working with Chipotles for pork and other products, and Joel Salatin talks about how difficult this is to do in his book "Folks this Ain't Normal" book. I highly recommend that book. It lays out a lot of the issues from liability to logistics and a lot of other stuff.

Generally pork, lamb and beef are taken to USDA plants for processing...then you can sell the products pretty much anywhere. I did not get my own label but they do put your farm's name on the label for you. If you process your own critters, you will have to sell "shares" to do it legally.

If you do your own poultry processing, you may be limited to the 1000 bird Federal limit. After 1000 birds, each state has it's own requirements. Virginia allows a 20,000 bird exemption for small producers that requires premises inspection. You will have to check and see what your state allows.

We are mainly sticking to private sales year round and farmer's markets in season. I have products on hand year round but it dries up and blows away off season. That is hard as you need to maintain animals like laying hens year round...so your costs will not be balanced with your income. Buying clubs help also but you will sell way more products if you make it easy for consumers to access you.

If you have an questions about anything else, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to help.

Mar. 15, 2012, 01:19 PM
Selling the animals as meat can be extremely difficult.

We had no trouble at all selling fish off the boat and taking crabs to the farmer's market, probably because we were selling the whole creature, either fresh/blastfrozen or live.

We had no trouble selling our legal bycatch to Chinese restaurants either, through the back door, but I'm positive none of that hit the menu, it went home with the owner and staff. We still had to fill out Fish and Game paperwork to account for every pound of fish we sold.

The minute you set a knife to it different rules come to play, which is why farmers offer the share system. You have to buy the live animal, or a share, and pay the butcher separately. Poultry has some different rules but you still have to be careful.

We did have a friend that did Farmers markets with juice and was very happy with it. He gave his apples to the guy who juiced and bottled it (had a proper facility, inspected etc) and took back some of the juice, which he sold. He didn't even bother to have his own label put on it.

Mar. 15, 2012, 03:58 PM
If you do your own poultry processing, you may be limited to the 1000 bird Federal limit. After 1000 birds, each state has it's own requirements...

We have 300 and they have to be gov. inspected, don't complain ;). :lol: