Posted June 16, 2015
Since last August, we've offered a link to purchase our Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide to anyone who comes to our website and wants to purchase it. However, we've found one problem with this fully open-source approach: We have no way of finding out who purchases the guide–and thus, no way of knowing who is working to start a Meat Collective and how we can help them–unless buyers decide to share their email address with us, which, so far, they haven't. While the Meat Collective Alliance is dedicated to inspiring and jumpstarting Meat Collectives across the country,and sharing as much information as possible to that end, we also want to ensure that all Meat Collectives feel that they are a part of a broader community and movement. This means that we want to create connections between each Meat Collective and we want to ensure that each Meat Collective is dedicated to similar standards of practice and approaches to meat education.
Therefore, we are now asking that anyone interested in starting a Meat Collective simply contact us first. Once you do, a Meat Collective leader will get in touch with you to find out who you are, where you're located, and what resources you already have to work with. This will be your chance to ask us questions, and our chance to ask you guestions as well as to give you a better idea of what starting a Meat Collective actually entails. We'll also share a basic list of Meat Collective community standards. If, after this brief conversation, you're still excited to get going, we'll send you access to purchase the Mighty Meat Collective Guide. Buying this guide basically makes you a member of our organization. This means we'll act as a resource for you whenever we are needed, we'll link you up with other Meat Collective mentors and advisors, and we'll keep you up to date on new practices, discoveries, standards, and more. As you evolve, we will evolve with you!
If you have already purchased the Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide, please consider getting in touch with us so that we can be an ongoing resource for you!
Posted March 4, 2015
So much has happened since our last blog post! First, two more meat collectives have launched in California. The Southern California Meat Collective and Meat San Diego, a Meat Collective-style educational and event program based in San Diego. Yes, they are both in Southern California. We trust they'll each figure out their own space and role as meat educators in that very populated and sprawling area of the country. For now, SCMC seems to be based around Anaheim and Orange County. SCMC's first two classes have already sold out! Meat San Diego plans on holding a lot of events and classes in San Diego but also across the border in Baja, Mexico. In fact, Camas Davis, president of the Meat Collective Alliance, recently traveled down to San Diego to meat with founder Jaime Fritsch, who took her on a meat-eating tour of northern Baja. In April, the San Diego folks are hosting a very exciting "History of Carnitas" event across the border! We're so excited for both entitities and we look forward to watching them grow.
With the launch of these two meat collectives in California, we think it's safe to say that the West Coast is truly representing right now! We've now got six meat collectives strung along I-5! Very exciting.
In other news, we at the MCA have expanded our board by a few people and begun doing the important and necessary things a new nonprofit board must do in order to ensure the long term viability of the organization. This means a whole lot of meetings and committee formations and documentation. In January, our board attended a day-long training just to learn the ropes of being an effective and responsible board member. Now, we are moving forward with program strategies, organizational and fundraising planning, marketing projects, a bigger and better website and more. We think of this year as our planning year. It might take us some time to get all our processes and plans in place, but trust us when we say we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure the meat collective movement is a strong one in the long term. Stay tuned!
Posted October 6, 2014
We've got someone from Boston starting a Meat Collective and he had a few questions. I thought I'd post his questions and my answers here for all to read.
Question: How was a rate for instructors established?
Answer: I determine my rate based on how much experience the instructor has both as a butcher and as an instructor. I also determined the price based on what butchers or chefs are typically paid in their normal jobs. As well, you have to take into consideration what students are willing to pay for a class. There are plenty of butchers who want me to pay them $1000 a class and I just can't justify it, unless I raise my class rates substantially. Typically the instructors are working for 4 maybe 5 hours and we are doing all set up and clean up for them. So I take that into consideration too. In the beginning of the PMC I paid all my instructors $150 a class. I still start most instructors out at that rate. But there are certainly some that make more depending on their experience.
Question: I also wonder if anyone in the alliance has any experience with Jero brand knives. I have been considering this knife set but im concerned about the longevity if its a poor brand.
Answer: In the beginning I used Victorinox almost exclusively. Then I developed a relationship with Wusthof and started using their knives. Both are great. I have not had to replace any of my knives and I have been happy with the blades.
Question: I spoke to a few companies and they both say they cant insure a meat collective. One actually said "what if someone cuts their hand off!" Are their any strategies for approaching insurance companies. Also when I get to considering a package i was thinking of insuring the BMC per event is their any reason not to do this.
Answer: Did you speak to an insurance agent or directly to an insurance company? My insurance agent managed to get me insurance, and so far as I know, all of the other Meat Collectives out there have also managed to get it. I mean, you are no different than a culinary school, and culinary schools are most certainly insured. Butcher shops are insured too. However, it is true, most insurance companies will say "OMG. Knives! No!" This doesn't mean they won't insure you. You really should get an insurance agent who knows how to talk the talk to the insurance companies, as opposed to talking directly to an insurance company. There's lingo and ways to explain the business model that your insurance agent will know better than you do. My insurance agent was unable to get any of the major/primary insurance companies to insure us, but he did get a secondary insurance company to insure us. We had to also work with a financier to back our insurance (i.e. they pay up front and we pay them on a monthly basis). Some of the things that the insurance company wanted to know: Do you teach knife safety skills at the beginning of class. YES! Of course we do. We also have students sign a waiver of liability. Another way to make the insurance company calm down is to provide protective gloves and chainmail for your students. I'd suggest talking to an agent who will then do the talking for you. I am happy to put you in touch with mine and maybe he can find someone in the Boston area for you. He can also tell you the things that came up when he tried to find us insurance. It's all about how you phrase everything. He is a Farmer's Insurance agent. But he got me insurance through Essex Insurance Company. I looked into just getting temporary event insurance for each class, which you totally could do in the beginning, but I started doing too many classes to make that feasible. It was a lot of paper work every time and also would end up being more money.
Question: How are the other collectives dealing with class cancellation? I was thinking of bootstrapping in the beginning and only reserving the class room and the animal after registration was full and paid.The only problem I see is if someone cancels. Please advise. I'd like to hear the wisdom of experience.
Answer: This is all in the ebook, which hopefully you bought and have read. But to reiterate: We require all our students to prepay. We will only hold a class if at least 8 people can attend. At least that's what works for our numbers. We do however have to reserve the classroom and the animal before we know this (otherwise we might be scrambling for space or animals at the last minute which is not good). We usually make the call as to whether or not to hold a class about 4 or 5 days before the class date. Our farmers need way more notice than that if we want animals from them. We always have people prepay for classes. Trust us, don't ever have people just come to class and pay because if they haven't paid they often will decide just not to come at the last minute. If we do have to cancel a class, usually the farmers can find another buyer for the meat/animal, but if they can't we will help them find one by emailing our students or posting on our Meat Collectives Switchboard. Or even just asking friends or family if they want a side of pork or whatever. If we have to cancel our kitchen reservation, the kitchen's don't really seem to care provided we give them notice (we're already competing with so many other people for that space, that they usually find other people to fill it somehow). We also have a strict refund policy too, which we make sure people get automatically by email when they pay for our classes. This is what we tell them:
"Our classes greatly depend on enough students pooling their money together to purchase the animals needed for the class. While we do the purchasing for you, you pay for the purchase. And we have to order the animals ahead of time. If everyone dropped out of the class at the last minute, you are still technically the owners of those animals. Since we are a traveling butchery school, we’ve nowhere to put the animals for safekeeping. For this reason we must have a refund policy that covers the cost of the animals no matter if a student can make it or not. If you wish to still get your share of meat, even though you can’t make the class, we can arrange for that. Our policy is as follows:
If students cancel 7 or more days before the class date: 100% will be refunded.
If students cancel 3 to 6 days before the class date: 50% will be refunded.
If students cancel with less than 2 day’s notice before the class date: 0% will be refunded."
To me it's best to assume you are going to sell at least 8 spots in the class (10 or 12 is of course better) and to make sure that if you do get at least 8 people signed up and paid for, that you have everything in place beforehand. We tell our kitchens and our farmers that occasionally we may need to cancel but we will give them as much notice as we can. We do hold classes even if we are just going to break even, although we try to make sure that doesn't happen very often.
Posted August 14, 2014
Someone has asked about buying pork/pigs for Basic Pig Butchery Classes. Since I assume many of you will have similar questions, I'm posting the question and answer here.
What size of pigs do you do your classes with? I have a local farmer that can get me 100 lb. whole pigs at any time. Larger market pigs are available to me with a weeks notice (delivered on Wednesdays). Do you ever use whole pigs? Is 100 lb. whole pig too small for a class? Also they're asking 4.50 a pound for the larger market size and say they can discount the smaller pigs. What's been your experience with different sizes?
I use three "sides" of pork for our pig classes. A side is one half of the pig, cut laterally down the middle of the spine/vertebrae. This usually adds up to about 300 lbs. A 100 lb whole pig is WAYYYY to small. It's going to have watery, undeveloped muscles and very little fat, which is not ideal. The sides I'm using are coming from whole pigs that weigh around 200-250 lbs, hanging weight.
I generally pay between $3-$4 per lb for pigs. It's unclear to me why the larger pigs would be so much more money. Generally farmers sell a price per lb that is consistent, and which does not change with size, with the exception of suckling pigs. So that's a little off to me.
Also, I do not recommend using "whole pigs" for classes (i.e. not split sides). They not only are typically more expensive (because they are sold as "luau" pigs), it is much easier to work on sides, and most butchers who teach your classes will want to do it that way.
Posted August 12, 2014
Since the Meat Collective Alliance launched this website, seven individuals from across the country have purchased the "Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide."
We hear rumors of a Southern California Meat Collective, an Austin Meat Collective, a Montana Meat Collective and more.
A few of these people have emailed us some questions and, since our forum is still under construction, I'd like to post something about the main question we keep getting: How to approach the USDA or State Department of Agriculture about the Meat Collective model.
Mark Trout, who wishes to start the Southern California Meat Collective, specifically had some questions about dealing with regulators when it comes to using USDA-inspected animals versus custom-exempt animals for classes. Mark sent me his revised version of the proposal that I include in the Mighty Meat Collective Startup Guide. I read through the proposal and urged Mark to not send it yet. Instead I suggested that he find out if he can get a good source of USDA-inspected meat for his classes, so that he wouldn't have to even approach the state or county about using custom-exempt meat. This is what I would suggest to all of you: Try using USDA-inspected meat whenever possible, or at least at first, and then make sure that you are following all the rules regarding that. Once you've established your Meat Collective using USDA meat, then you can approach the State or County about using custom-exempt meat. Dumping all of this on the State Dept of Ag before you have even gotten started as a business might not be the best approach. Here is what I wrote:
"I would first find out if you can just use USDA-inspected meat (i.e. get a constant source for that), and then find a local USDA rep to talk to about using USDA-inspected meat for classes. There should't be a problem, and you shouldn't need a license to do that but you never know. And it's good to have someone in the USDA just know what you are doing.Then, I would find out who at the state or county level you can talk to just by phone first, and establish a relationship with that person. Do a basic gist conversation and then tell them you can send a detailed proposal. I find these people are more responsive when they hear our human voice and we sound normal and nice."
Also: I urged him to talk to Jon Gonzalez, who started the El Dorado Meat Collective in California earlier this year. If more than one Meat Collective is going to exist within a given state (and I assume this will be common over time) it's important that those Meat Collective's ban together and try to get on the same page with regulators.
Also: When taking my original WSDA proposal from the Startup Guide and adapting it for your use, be sure to make it all relevant to YOU. Here is what i wrote Mark:
"In your proposal there is a part titled WSDA/ODA/USDA. Since this was a proposal for the WSDA, you will want to maybe change that header to "History of the Meat Collective Model" or something. And then include the fact that a version of the proposal you are sending to the california folks, was sent to the WSDA and that the WSDA agreed with the ODA in their determination. You might also include the text from their determination letter that I included in the ebook. Also in the summation part of the proposal you should state that not only has the ODA said the PMC activities don't qualify for any licenses or permits, but the WSDA has determined the same thing for the the Olympia and Seattle Meat Collectives in Washington. Also, in the summation of my original proposal there are lines like "the ODA has advised us." You will want to be sure that it doesn't sound like the ODA advised you, but that the ODA advise the PMC."
What I realized, in reading Mark's adaptation of my proposal, is that we should probably just create a template for everyone to use with blank lines to fill in where relevant. We will work on getting that, and add that to the ebook.
-Camas Davis, Owner (PMC), Founder (MCA)