Half a Cow website combines agricultural and IT skills to connect meat consumers with producers

Like seemingly everything else these days, meat prices continue to rise, but a new website aims to reduce supermarket costs incurred by farmers and customers by linking them directly.

Half a Cow Online is the brainchild of James Gilbert, who lives on a small farm in Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills.

Mr. Gilbert also works in IT and uses this knowledge to help farmers.

“I realized there were a lot of logistics that the farmers had to deal with, like cut leaves and sorting out the money,” he said.

“So each farmer gets their own part of the website, they can price their own cows at their own price and they don’t have to coordinate anything, like payments and deliveries, the website will do all of that.”

James Gilbert will officially launch Half a Cow Online in July.(Provided: James Gilbert)

The website will be free to farmers and a small percentage of sales will go toward running costs.

A bigger market for local farmers

Tom Hampton runs Adelaide Hills Pasture-fed Beef and was one of the first farmers to register on the website.

He was already selling directly to the public through his own corporate website, social media and word of mouth.

But he said having someone like Mr Gilbert involved would make things much easier.

“Farmers are very good at producing high quality products, but marketing and selling directly to consumers are not necessarily farmers’ strengths,” he said.

“It potentially fills that niche and gives farmers the ability to sell directly to consumers more easily.”

A smiling farmer with a high visibility orange jacket and a gray beanie on a farm.
According to farmer Tom Hampton, the website gives growers access to a bigger market.(Provided: Tom Hampton)

Mr Hampton said getting support from those in the IT world would help farmers sell their produce to a wider network.

“I think James and I have skills that complement each other,” he said.

Meat value for money

Mr Gilbert said the idea came from buying meat from a local farmer and seeing that there was better value for money and the meat was of higher quality.

“It makes more sense to me, it’s just good and I was talking to the farmer and I was like ‘Why don’t you do this on a bigger scale?'” he said.

“Essentially it’s happening all over the country anyway, farmers selling their cows to their friends.

“It goes through the slaughterhouse, goes through the butcher, everything has been processed correctly and legally, but the farmers do everything.

“We can actually connect these farms through the internet, with customers who want to buy it outside the area, like in town, for example.”

Gilbert said a consumer would hop on the website and find a farm in their area, then choose the cuts of meat they want.

“Farmers are able to say, ‘Look, this cow will be ready around June or August,’ or whenever it works for them,” he explained.

“And then they can see the price of the cow, then they can see the cut sheet online and figure out exactly how they want that cow prepared and how much meat they want.

“They’ll have pictures there so they know what cuts they’re getting, and that might lead them to try something new like a breast.”

Will this mean cheaper meat for customers?

Mr. Gilbert explained that it might be a bigger upfront cost, but over time the value would be there.

“In the beginning you have the initial cost of half or quarter of a side or the whole cow if you want…then over the course of the year you have a freezer full of meat and you don’t have to worry about going to the supermarket and buying more,” he said.

“And I find that you get higher quality meat, plus you’re exposed to a wider range of choices and cuts.”

A community bond

Mr Hampton said the website would also have ripple effects on other small businesses.

“It’s really good that he’s supporting small butcher shops because that’s not what it used to be anymore,” he said.

“What James is doing could potentially be scaled nationally and have that local connection between the farmers, the slaughterhouse, the butcher and the consumer.”

Three slices of raw fresh cow meat.
It is hoped that the website will give farmers more control over the price of their produce.(Provided: Tom Hampton)

This is exactly what Mr. Gilbert wanted when he started the Half A Cow website.

“We struggled a bit with the bushfires and then COVID came along. It just seems like the farmers are always on their toes.

“I hadn’t realized it, but most of the time when farmers bring their cows to market, they are actually completely dependent on the price of the date, which allows them to have more control over their products. and their prices, and allows them to keep a fairer share of the profits.”

The website will officially launch in July and Gilbert plans to add an option for farmers to sell sheep, goats, deer and pigs.

Edwin S. Wolfe