Consumer Trends: Taking it to the Internet

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Just 10 large commercial ag companies control the majority of what Americans eat, according to the website of a company called AgLocal. This startup out of Kansas City, Mo., would like to counteract that trend of concentration in the food supply — and give some power back to the smaller players — with the help of the Internet, by o_ ering small farmers, distributors and restaurants a new way to buy and sell meat online.

“AgLocal was started to combat these very statistics that threaten American family farms, with the use of our software platform,” according to the company website. “AgLocal wants consumers to understand what they eat, where it comes from and teach consumers how they can support these family farms. Every time you sit down at an AgLocal restaurant, you are directly supporting the family farms that the restaurant uses AgLocal to purchase from.”

AgLocal cofounder Naithan Jones said he launched the company because he wanted to give consumers that power to direct their support, according to the website TechCrunch. Frustrated that he couldn’t find a way to buy what he calls “responsibly raised” local meats (humanely raised, and with no hormones or antibiotics), he started thinking about the existing distribution system and whether it was allowing him to get the best meat products at the best prices — and how he might use the Internet to disrupt and improve that system.

After deciding that connecting consumers and farmers directly was not practical or scalable, he went up to the next level of meat buyers: distributors and restaurants. He created AgLocal so they could buy meats directly from farmers and ranchers in the quantities they need and on a regular schedule. Purchasers can see at a glance who has what, order what they need and pay for it with a few clicks.

Farmers on AgLocal, which offers a web-based service as well as apps for Apple and Android, have the opportunity to list the meat they have for sale and the minimum purchase required to ship an order. They can, and are encouraged to, post photos of their operations as well as descriptions of their production practices.

AgLocal earns its money on both sides of the transaction, taking a 4 percent cut from the farmers who list their meat and another 4 percent from the purchaser. So far, about 100 farms and ranches have signed on, according to fastcompany. com, but these are still early days. The site just launched earlier this year, with some powerful support behind it: $1 million in startup funding from various venture capital investors, and clothing company Carhartt also is pitching in a sponsorship.

The company’s goal is not just to help small farmers and ranchers get better prices and stay in business — though that is a part of its intention — but to participate in, and even help facilitate, the larger shift of consumer preference toward “responsibly raised” meat. According to a recent American Meat Institute survey of American consumers, they are on the right side of the trend: Survey results showed that the natural and organic category continues to grow, and the future for the category looks bright.



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