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“What a ripoff. You should be ashamed, taking advantage of people in need. I hope you go out of business.” – Lenny, Coram, NY
This was the second criticism that Lenny posted in response to some of our Facebook ads. Since we knew he wasn't a customer, we didn't pay the first much mind, but the second time he elected to air his grievances publicly, we decided we might take the opportunity to address his complaint:
Hi, Lenny, I noticed you’ve commented twice now with criticisms of our posts, so I thought I’d offer a few comments. I will say, yours is an unorthodox take. Especially in these times, we’ve heard from several people around the country wishing us well, but you’re the first to offer wishes of failure. In fact, you’re the first one I’ve heard wishing hope for failure for any business in the midst of a pandemic, much less a local farm.
I can tell you your wishes are not out of the realm of possibility – as a small family farm, over 80% of our normal business comes from our local restaurant partners, who are of course mostly closed right now – so our disappointing you is by no means assured. In fact, even in normal times this business is quite the challenge. Like most family farms in our area, the business is not near big or profitable enough to sustain us, so I rely on other sources of income to make ends meet myself, while my Dad, who is 73, works way more 12-14 hour days than I’d like keeping up with all the things that have to go on to keep a farm going.
Fortunately, we’ve got a wonderful local community who have gone out of their way to purchase from us in this time, as well as supporting our restaurant partners, who are hurting even worse than we are. To that end, we’re putting a portion of our sales during April toward providing some extra meat to our restauranteurs and their employees and families, as most have no way to replace their own incomes right now. We’ve got plenty of challenges ourselves, but we figure now is a time to come together and help those who are hurting most.
Which brings me to the other comments you offered (and I apologize, one of your posts to our page was unfortunately deleted) – to me, the definition of a ripoff is when somebody – the “rippor” – profits handsomely by taking money from another – the “rippee” – in exchange for something that delivers far less value to the rippee than he or she should reasonably expect. I wonder if that matches your definition?
I ask because we’re small enough to know pretty well all of our customers, so I’m pretty sure we’ve never sold any meat to you, so I don’t think your criticism comes from personally feeling like a rippee. We have shipped some orders to New York lately, so it’s possible a neighbor shared some of our product with you, and one or both of you were disappointed in the experience. If that’s the case, we definitely want to know more about that, and see what we can do to address the concerns, so please message me with the contact and order number, or date of the order.
Perhaps more likely, you have no knowledge of our product, you just saw the price of our ribeye and for some reason really took offense to it, and decided to discourage others from having that same experience that you haven’t had. Twice, in fact. That’s what I find a bit curious. I see that you work with a local grocery store chain so I’m sure you’re not unfamiliar with the meat business – but what you may not know is that the independent meat processing supply chain is smaller and significantly more expensive – the costs of processing at a local slaughterhouse is perhaps two to three times the cost of the large scale industrial meat processing that supplies stores like yours. And that’s before we incur the other extra expenses of selecting from premium quality breeding stock, raising and grazing pasture raised beef without any steroids or growth stimulants, finishing them on pasture instead of a feedlot, and having the meat dry aged 14 days.
So, yep, there’s absolutely a lot more cost that goes into the unique flavor and quality our product offers, and it’s not for everybody – but many folks think it’s worth it, including some of the top chefs in North Carolina, and none seem to feel ripped off.
More curious still is your impression that we’re taking advantage of those in need. Beef, as you probably know, is among the most expensive proteins to raise, and our process is at the higher end of the cost of production, so yeah, it costs a good bit more than a Tyson’s chicken. I get that you believe the flavor you haven’t tried isn’t worth the premium you haven’t paid, but all of our sales are voluntary transactions, neither you nor anyone else is coerced to give us money in exchange for our meat. It’s really for those who are willing to pay for the extra cost incurred to create our dry aged, pasture raised flavor.
Those “in need” of ribeyes who want to pay less can surely go to fine local stores just like yours and spend less, and may be quite happy with the product. There are fine farmers and grocers across the country and many of them have large, efficient, low cost operations that supply that kind of product. Our little 115-acre mountain plot of land really doesn’t allow for large, efficient, or low cost, so we’ve had to go another route. Even just storing our product in freezers on the farm, and shipping in insulated packaging with dry ice eats up a healthy chunk of those prices you take offense to. Which is to say, if we’re ripping people off and taking advantage of those in need to line our own pockets, we’re doing a pretty poor job of it, and we probably should’ve chosen a different industry to be in. But my great great granddad is the one who chose this line of work, and I guess we’re kind of starting to like it anyway.
So, Lenny, that probably doesn’t change your mind to want to order our product, but maybe it helps change your mind to wish success instead of failure to us and countless other family farms and other small businesses doing what they can to stay afloat. And I would definitely encourage you and anyone else you would discourage from buying from us, to support local farms and restaurants, and try out some dry aged local beef if you haven’t. I don’t know Long Island well, but I see there in your area is Black Label Burgers in Westbury, and NOCO in Saint James. Both appear to make an effort to source top quality local meats, and I’m sure need your help. Even if they’re not open right now, maybe buy a gift card that can give them some cash now that you can use later when times are better. And last, thanks for what you do. Not many Hollywood movies make heroes out of folks that keep the local grocery store running, but at times like this, we see who it is that is really essential.
Now, go offer some hope and help to some other local business that you do want to see succeed. We’ll be down here trying to dash your hopes as best we can.