Dan Murphy: Virtual Butcher Shops

There’s much that’s positive about the various online meat delivery services. ( FJ )

We’re firmly addicted to online shopping — and that ain’t all good. But with the emergence of virtual butcher shops, people now have alternatives to the vegan and alt-meat movements.

It’s with a certain trepidation that I’m composing this column.

Reason being, we are rapidly becoming Cocoon Nation, where the majority of consumers prefer to stay glued to their couches, ordering all manner of products online and only arising from the same to open the door and pick up their packages.

It’s a trend that’s driving independent store owners out of business and killing off brick-and-mortar malls by the dozens — more than 7,000 store closings have already been announced in just the first six months of 2019, according to BusinessInsider.com.

Apart from the social implications of a society in which people prefer avoiding contact with other people, which remains the basis of traditional retailers’ point of difference, when people rely on online shopping, it exacerbates the out-of-control corporate consolidation underway across virtually every retail sector.

Thus, promoting online marketers of premium meat products is, at best, a double-edged sword: good for the overall perception and prominence of animal agriculture but also part of a potentially problematic shift in how Americans purchase their household goods and their food products.

Cyber meat marketing

Those caveats noted, there’s much that’s positive about the various online meat delivery services, “virtual butcher shops,” as they prefer to characterize their operations.

First, is the quality. No offense intended to name-brand supermarket chain stores, but their meat departments are necessarily geared toward quantity, not quality. Shoppers whose to-buy-or-not-to-buy decisions often hinge on a few cents-per-pound in the cost of ground beef aren’t the target demographic for $12-a-pound steaks.

But to date, eating quality and sensory satisfaction remain the key distinctions between beef, pork and poultry and the various alt-meat analogs, and the more that consumers experience exceptional taste and flavor in the fresh meats they prepare at mealtime, the less compelling the mantra of a meatless world that’s pitched relentlessly by animal activists and their veganista allies.

Second is the fact that almost all of the online meat marketers source from independent farmers, ranchers and processors. Indeed, direct-to-consumer online sales are often the only way small-scale processors can stay profitable.

Keeping both the dwindling number of smaller packing plants and the equally shrinking number of family farmer-ranchers in business and in production is more than a worthy goal with positive implications for regional economies and rural communities; it’s a vital necessity to maintain some semblance of agricultural diversity.

If, God forbid, large-scale monoculture of commodity crops or concentrated breeding/feeding operations become the only models that allow anyone in agriculture to remain profitable, we will have lost — probably forever — a fundamental pillar of national food security, ie, the ability of the United States to feed its population without resorting to utter dependence on food imports.

So as Father’s Day approaches, why not do the old man a favor, and support the vitality of animal agriculture, by ordering a box or two of premium meats from one of the leading online meat marketers?

There is more than a dozen such operators with largely positive reviews who are ready to ship containers of high-quality steaks, ribs, burgers, seafood — you name it — straight to your front door.

Dad will welcome such a thoughtful, appetizing alternative to tie clips, cologne or yet another golf shirt.

Or do what I did: Order one of the Father’s Day specials yourself.

Who says dear old dad can’t treat himself AND enjoy the thoughtful gifts the family probably spent 10 minutes or so purchasing a couple days earlier?

Ordered online, of course.

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.

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