New app links meat producers to consumers

Potential buyers will indicate what they’re looking for and the app will show them producers who can meet their needs

There’s an app for that.

It’s become a common expression in this world rife with smartphones, and one of the latest apps is Meatocracy, a way for livestock producers to sell larger quantities of product direct to consumers.

The Regina-based company’s chief executive officer, Lyndon Lisitza, said the app is expected to be available in Canada and the United States through the usual channels for Apple and Android by June 19.

Though work on the platform began before the pandemic, COVID-19 has given additional impetus to the project now that consumers are more frequently using e-commerce options to order food.

“We’ve been working with several producer groups across the country from multiple types of animals,” he said.

Beef, pork, chicken, lamb, bison and goat are expected to be available.

“We’ve sort of covered the whole gamut as far as the producer groups, just to let them know that something is coming down the pipe that might be useful for their membership,” said Lisitza.

“It also has allowed us to take the feedback that we received from these producer groups and take that to heart and build those solutions into our app. So it’s been really good for us because we have been working on it for awhile.”

The mobile app will be similar to other online shopping experiences for consumers. After free sign-in, potential buyers can indicate what type of meat they’re looking for, and they will be shown all the producers in their region who have signed up to supply it.

“It’s done very much by radius. So as an example, when the producer signs on, they can specify the market area that they want to cover,” said Lisitza.

Producers will set their own prices and delivery fees, if applicable, and can upload their own photos, although stock photos of various meats will be available to them. They can also provide a profile of their operation.

“It really is about providing the producer with as much power as possible so that they can effectively connect with those consumers. From a consumer perspective, once they log in, they’ll be able to see every producer in their area who is delivering or allow for pickup of meat, and they do that sale,” Lisitza said.

The aim is to help producers sell larger quantities of product, such as quarters, halves or whole animals. Producers themselves have to arrange processing, cutting and wrapping with the abattoir of their choice and build that into their asking price.

“The goal is to get as many animals through the system, allowing producers … who are looking to sell a portion of their production. It allows them to at least have some animal disappearance.”

In turn, the purchase of larger amounts of meat can reduce prices for consumers able to store it.

“We’re just trying to localize the supply chain to some degree to provide producers an option to meet with their local consumers, and I think there’s a growing demand for that, especially at the consumer level,” said Lisitza.

Meatocracy’s end of the business is 10 percent of the total sale, a cut that is automated through the payment system embedded in the app.

Lisitza grew up on a cattle operation near Porcupine Plain, Sask., which he said has helped him understand producer challenges with direct marketing. The app is thus a type of turnkey operation that he hopes will allow producers to do that more easily.

He also identified local processing capacity as one of the bottlenecks in the supply chain, so Meatocracy is exploring possibilities for mobile or modular processing operations to address that gap.

Canadian statistics indicate consumers have greatly increased online food purchases as a result of the pandemic and may continue that trend when the current crisis abates.

Craig Klemmer, principal agriculture economist with Farm Credit Canada, said during a June 9 webinar that online shopping is here to stay, but economic stress arising from the pandemic is likely to make the price of any protein a major determinant of what type to buy.

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