An early customer questionnaire (February
2001) polled the first 68 customers, and the results indicated a strong synergy
between the various elements of the Petite Beef by Headwater Farms “story,”
with the following “values” listed as “most important": 1- Promote
sustainable farming practices (26%); 2- Help support local, family farms (26%);
3- River friendly (22%); 4- No hormones or antibiotics (17%); 5- Preserve open
space (4%); 6- Low fat (4%); 7- Grass
fed (0%). Ninety-one% of the 33
responders felt the price reflected the quality and environmental benefits of
the product and planned to reorder.
questionnaire was mailed in June 2002. More
explicit than the first, this questionnaire was designed to quantify the
acceptability of the Petite Beef product (harvested from large calves weighing
approximately 750 pounds) and the relative importance of elements of the
Headwater Farms “story” in their initial decision to purchase the product,
and in their decision to reorder. Highlights
of results from that questionnaire follow (click
here for a 99 KB PDF version of the complete report):
More than 70% of customers found the Petite
Beef product to be “more than” satisfactory.
Taste tended to be rated “excellent” more often than either
tenderness or juiciness. Fewer
than 10% of responders rated any aspect of these products, other than the
tenderness of steaks, as less than satisfactory. Overall, responders were somewhat happier
with roasts and ground beef than with steaks.
A solid majority of responders thought Petite Beef offered a good
value where price appropriately reflected the quality, social and
environmental benefits of the product.
However, comments on the cost issue highlighted some of the issues
that challenge niche products with prices that exceed regular commodity
products. A sampling: "For
me the price is ok, but of course, it keeps others from buying. Many prefer to pay the lower price of conventional beef
while all of us subsidize it because it doesn't reflect the internal
costs" and "yes but
this doesn't mean that I can necessarily afford it as part of my food
budget." One answer related to the eating quality of the product:
"A good value in the terms stated above, but less so in terms of family
budget and outstanding flavor."
Rating Petite Beef Qualities
first decided to purchase Petite Beef primarily because of the Headwater
Farms “story.” In order,
from most to least important on a scale from 5 to 1, customers first bought:
to protect family farms (score = 4.76); to promote sustainable agriculture
(4.67); to protect the environment (4.62); to eat beef raised without using
hormones and antibiotics (4.54); to preserve open space (4.40); to promote
humane treatment of livestock (4.31); because they knew where their food was
coming from (4.29); because it was primarily grass-fed (4.19); because the
beef was packaged without additives (such as salt-water – an increasingly
common practice) (4.15); for the taste (3.65); because the beef is leaner
(3.35) and; finally, for convenience (2.82).
Taste became a more important consideration for repeat buyers, with
many deciding the taste was a reason to buy again.
Those who decided not to reorder cited reasons related to qualities
(cut size, cut selection, ”too much beef”, taste, etc), cost or
Rating Importance of Petite Beef Attributes
There was no
customer consensus on the need for formal product certification.
However, 50% and 40% of the customers were more than
"somewhat" interested in certification for, respectively, river
protection and humane treatment, perhaps reflecting the particular interests
of the product's target audience. "Heart
safe" certification was of relatively little interest.
to fall into one of two groups – the majority with progressive concerns
(protecting family farms, protecting rivers and environment, humane
treatment of animals, promoting sustainable agriculture, and preserving open
space) and the minority with supermarket concerns (taste, convenience and
fat content). There were
no significant correlations between the supermarket concerns group and the
progressive concerns group, but a third group bridged these two - safety
concerns (knowing the meat’s origin, grass-fed, absence of additives, and
Buyers overwhelmingly liked the