This page was created by the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network. Click on the link for more useful meat processing resources.
If you're a meat processor who provides processing services for farmers and ranchers, how do you communicate with your customers about your business?
Have you ever had a miscommunication about scheduling, services you offer, products you make, what you charge, or pick-up times?
Do you spend a lot of time on the phone or in person explaining how you operate?
A short, simple customer manual can really help. Even a couple of pages is enough to communicate the basics.
Hear how manuals are working for two small processors on the webinar below:
Date: February 27, 2013
Time: 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern, for 1 hour
Some processors give their new processing customers a “how to work with us” manual, to help with the education process. On this webinar, we learned about manuals used by two small plants: Wells Jenkins Wells, in North Carolina, and Homegrown Poultry, in Idaho. We also showed an online model you can use to write your own.
Most processors will want to give their customers similar kinds of information. Below, we offer an outline based on a real manual used by a real plant, Wells, Jenkins, Wells Fresh Meats. We also show you what Wells Jenkins wrote in each section.
You can cut and paste from this webpage to start writing your own manual, but make sure all the information in YOUR manual is about YOUR plant. Add, subtract, or change the section titles to meet your needs.
Wells, Jenkins, Wells Fresh Meats is a small, USDA-inspected slaughter and processing plant in North Carolina. They had help writing their manual from NC Choices, a Center for Environmental Farming Systems' initiative that promotes the advancement of local, niche and pasture-based meat supply chains. Learn more about Wells Jenkins here and on their Facebook page.
Wells, Jenkins, Wells Fresh Meats is committed to working with small-scale, local meat producers who direct market meats. We work with over 45 small, independent farmers who produce and market natural, local and niche meats. At Wells Jenkins, we understand the importance of attention to detail when it comes to handling your product. We believe that through effective communication and mutual trust, we can serve the needs of your growing meat business.
Farmers, registered Meat Handlers, and wholesale buyers should use this document for reference concerning USDA inspected slaughter, processing and cut and wrap, labeling for resale items and wholesale orders of our own line of fresh and further processed meat products.
Wells Jenkins offers USDA inspected slaughter, fabrication, and custom cutting and packaging for beef, pork, lamb, goat and bison. Currently, further processing services include: fresh sausages; sliced (uncooked) deli style meats such as fresh pork belly, deli ham and beef philly steak; and smoked, cooked, and ready-to-eat products such as bacon, ribs, bbq, and the like.
To schedule processing and submit cutting orders, call (Name of Scheduler) at (phone number) or by email: (email address). The best times to call are (suggest times of day).
Payment for services is expected at pickup. Payment options include cash, personal or business check (with prior approval), Visa, Mastercard or Discover cards. For your convenience, we are able to take credit card payments over the telephone. Customers with returned checks will be charged $45. When your product is finished we will call you and let you know. Your finished product must be picked up within 2 business days of notification that it is ready. Please understand that our facility has limited cold storage which is very expensive to run. Product left in our facility past two business days after notification may incur a storage fee.
Please do not bring animals for slaughter without prior scheduling. To schedule processing, please call Jody Thompson at 828-245-5544 at least 14 days in advance of when you need the animal slaughtered. Please keep in mind:
We have standardized cut sheets for each species, which you can download from our website. You can also pick up hard copies in the shop.
We cannot take cutting instructions from a farmer’s multiple customers. Please communicate with your customers and gather their cut lists prior to our pulling your beef onto the cut floor. Please use the cut sheets provided.
Refer to the schedule below for our weekly work flow to determine slaughter days and when your work may be done. This schedule is subject to change. Customer pick-up happens every day of the week.
We understand that, at certain times, you may require a rush order and we are willing to work with you under these circumstances. We will consider rush orders on an individual basis and in accordance with our scheduled work load. At our discretion, rush orders may incur additional charges. Proper planning and communication will usually avoid rush orders and resulting additional charges.
Our sausage recipes are pre-mixed and provided by A.C. Legg Seasoning and contain no MSG, BHT, or BHA as preservatives or flavor enhancers, unless otherwise noted. If you have specific ingredient questions you may refer to their website at www.aclegg.com, where you will find complete ingredient information. There is a 25# minimum order, per recipe, for each of these items. USDA inspected deboned or ground poultry may be received and blended with a few of our sausages. Note: While we make every effort to provide our customers with a diverse line of quality seasoned products, we cannot make “custom” recipes for your sausages. Each recipe we use has to have a label approved by the USDA, a lengthy and time consuming process.
We offer packaging in large heavy cardboard boxes for $2/box to cover the cost of the boxes. If you do not choose to use our boxes, please bring your own containers, coolers or freezers at pick-up.
Use of our in-house plant generic label is included with your packaging. The label will read “Wells Jenkins Meat Processing” at the top and show the plant’s address.
Most Farmer Meat Handlers prefer to use their logo/ farm name on our generic label to help differentiate their branded product in the marketplace and provide the consumer with contact information. This option must be set-up by a paid outside technician who must come to the plant to do this work. There is a one-time fee of $125 to set up your logo and contact information on our label. This labeling option is available in black and white only. This option does not require you to purchase the labels and keep them in inventory since the labeling machine prints them on demand.
Some farmers prefer a custom designed, full color label. These labels have to be designed, printed and ordered from a separate company with relatively high minimum orders, at expense of the farmer. This option is considerably more expensive for the farmer and requires additional time because of the design process. A special labeling application must to be sent to the USDA FSIS Labeling Division for approval. Estimated costs are between $1,000 and $1,800 dollars and 6-12 weeks for design, USDA approval, plating, manufacturing and delivery.
Some farmers wish to use “Special Labeling Claims” such as “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised”, “no added hormones or antibiotics”, etc. These claims must be approved by USDA/FSIS. Wells Jenkins offers this application service at a charge of $200 per application (up to 2 different labels per application). This process also takes time so please let us know well in advance.
Leading Green Distributing picks up at our plant and delivers in all directions in NC. Please contact (name) for information at (phone).
Once you have a draft, ask one or two of your current processing customers to read it to make sure it makes sense to them, too. Make changes as needed.
Make some copies to hand out, post it on your website, and email it to all existing and new customers.
Don't forget to update your manual when prices, services, scheduling, and any other information changes. It's also helpful to review it a few times a year to make sure everything is accurate.
When you're busy at the plant -- and when are you not busy? -- the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time on the phone explaining the same things over and over. Investing a little time now to write a customer manual can save you a lot of time in the long run. It also helps your customers know what to expect -- an essential part of great customer service.