<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=616016612279771&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to content
Back to Blog A picture of a raw piece of steak on parchment paper with rosemary on top.
Sales & Marketing

Ranchers and livestock farmers: is a CSA right for you?

This blog will help you answer the question: Should you run a meat CSA, or not?

Nina Galle
Nina Galle

Sep 27, 2023

Finding the best way for you to sell your meat isn't easy. There are lots of different options, each with their own pros & cons. 

Today, we want to help you answer one question: Should you run a meat CSA, or not?

First, let’s go through some definitions – what is a meat CSA? What’s the difference between a meat subscription and a CSA? What’s a buy-down CSA?

Honestly – they all kind of mean the same thing, and it really depends on what you produce, who your customers are, and what you want your day-to-day to look like.

The first decision to make is: Do I want to offer my customers flexibility or not? By flexibility, we mean:

  • Can your customers choose what’s in their box? 
  • Do they have a certain amount they have to spend with each order?
  • Can they skip or cancel their box delivery?

If you decide flexibility is the name of the game – consider a buy-down CSA model. This is where customers pay upfront at the beginning of the subscription period and each week, they can customize their box/order based on what they want that week. Over a defined period, their share credit gets deducted to $0, at which point they can re-buy and start again!

Some pros of the buy-down CSA model: 

  • Full flexibility for your customers. Not only do customers get to pick what they want, but they can also easily skip a week and order additional meat in their next order. 
  • Payment upfront. You get paid right at the beginning of the period, which can improve cashflow and can result in increased order values as customers add more a la carte options throughout the course of the subscription period. 

How would you put this into practice? You need a feature called Store Credit! Here’s how it would work:

  1. Create a product in your Local Line storefront for your different share options. Full share, half share, family box, you name it. 
  2. Once a customer purchases their share, you allocate the share amount as store credit in their account.
  3. Create a CSA price list. This price list is where CSA members can create their weekly/biweekly/monthly orders and pay with store credit. 
  4. Create an automated price list email that automatically reminds customers to put in their orders according to your fulfillment cadence. 

Alternatively, sometimes customers might be hesitant to pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season. But – you can still offer them flexibility. This is where a subscription model might be better fitting. 

Some pros of the subscription model: 

  • Customers get their meat box on a regular cadence and are charged after the order has been fulfilled, instead of paying upfront for a certain number of subscriptions like in the buy-down model. 
  • Have the ability to add a la carte purchases from your online store in addition to their subscription. 
  • Flexibility to skip, add, or cancel an order. 
  • Recurring revenue and increased cashflow predictability for you. Although you're not collecting a bulk payment up front, you'll be able to lock in a recurring payment that can provide valuable cashflow predictability. 

How would you put this into practice? You'll need our subscriptions feature. Here’s how it would work:

  1. Create your subscription products in your storefront and select your subscription settings including: fulfillment options, discounts, ability to skip, and more.
  2. Sell your subscriptions. You can either create a subscription plan in your back office or as customers order your products – a subscription plan will be created for them. They can manage their subscription settings in their Local Line account. 
  3. Fulfill the subscriptions. Leading up to your fulfillment date, a draft order will be created in your Local Line back office. Your customers will have the ability alter their order and add any one-off purchases. You can also alter the final weights of your meat if you sell by weight

These are just two ways you could offer a meat CSA or subscription model to your customers. When we asked farms how they ran their meat subscriptions, here were some ideas they provided: 

  • "Use a nose-to-tail model. Customers get a variety of of prime and non-prime cuts. Pricing varies on the weight they order, and their payment terms. If they pay upfront for 12 months, they get a 10% discount; for 6 months, they get a 5% discount." 
  • "Offer a combination of both. Let customers pick how they want to pay: upfront at the beginning of the season or a monthly, automatic recurring payment that operates like a subscription."
  • "Flexible start dates. One meat producer offered a buy-down CSA model where they allowed their customers to start at anytime. They also offer flexible ordering frequency - can order weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly."

The moral of the story is this: find the right model that works for you. Ultimately, it may require some experimentation!

Need help talking through business models or want to see what Local Line can do for you? Book a demo with our Farm Outreach team

Nina Galle

Nina Galle is the co-author of Ready Farmer One. She continues to arm farmers with the tools, knowledge, and community they need to sell online at Local Line.

Local Line Newsletter

Don't miss a beat!

Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter and receive weekly insights that you won't want to miss.

Latest Articles

How to Find Good Pickup Location Partners for Your Farm

How to Find Good Pickup Location Partners for Your Farm

In this post, we explain how to partner with pickup locations to reach more customers.

Take Social Media off Your Farm To-Do List with Local Line's Services

Take Social Media off Your Farm To-Do List with Local Line's Services

Social media lets you connect with your audience, build brand awareness, and drive purchase decisions. Learn more about our social media co...

Local Line and Brighter Bites Partner to Help Families in Need Access Fresh Local Food

Local Line and Brighter Bites Partner to Help Families in Need Access Fresh Local Food

Local Line and Brighter Bites are pleased to announce a new partnership that will help families in need access local produce directly from ...