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.  

A second 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

Unsatisfactory   Satisfactory   Excellent
1 2 3 4 5



 Customers 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 inconvenience. 

Rating Importance of Petite Beef Attributes

Very Little   Somewhat   Very Much
1 2 3 4 5



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.


Buyers tended 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 no antibiotics/hormones).  


  Buyers overwhelmingly liked the brochure.


Cacapon Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.

Cacapon Institute
PO Box 68
High View, WV 26808
304-856-1385 (tele)
304-856-1386 (fax)
Click here to send us an email
Frank Rodgers,  Executive Director

Website  made possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation,  the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous members.