Browsing for a cow: German consumers go online to know their meat
Kathrin Drinkuth –
Cow number 9141 is lying in her stall on a farm in southern Germany, contentedly chewing some hay. She is blissfully unaware of the fact that at this very moment she is being acquired on the internet and will soon be despatched to the slaughterhouse.
The cow, owned by farmer Ralph Nolle near Lake Constance in southern Germany, was put up for sale on a new platform called “Kaufnekuh” -German for “buy-a-cow” — for the purpose of what some are referring to as “crowd butchering.”
Some 82 per cent of cow 9141 have been acquired online.
Once the 100 per cent mark has been reached, the animal will be sent off to be slaughtered.
Those who have placed orders will then receive a package of meat by post.
The site’s founder, Yvo van Rijen, says it was “personal frustration” that caused him to consider the idea of using the internet for the meat trade.
“I was in the supermarket one time and had a package of meat in my hands and began wondering to myself, where is this actually from?” he says.
The packaging gave no clue as to the meat’s origin. The online platform that was created as a result, which also has an app attached to it, allows customers to pay about 100 euros ($108) for a 7 kilogramme package containing various different cuts of meat.
Van Rijen started out in 2014 by selling cows online in the Netherlands.
By his latest count, he has sold about 400 animals there.
His German operation was launched in November and so far, six cows have been sold.”We’re ready to start expanding,” he says,without giving further details.
The new platform has its critics. Cornelie Jaeger — whose name in German means “hunter” — is the animal protection official for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and is sceptical about whether online ordering will grow beyond its current niche in the market.
“Perhaps only those who already have developed an awareness for the issue will be open to it,” she says.
Besides, it is important deliveries should only cover short distances so that the quality of the meat can be guaranteed. Germans are known for their love of meat. According to the GermanMeat Association, meat consumption in Germany in 2014 came in at 2.4 million tonnes — an average of 29.5 kilogrammes per person.
The platform “is a move in the right direction, of paying attention to quality,” a company spokesman says.
Although similar products have been offered online, only 0.4 per cent of meat turnover last year came via the internet.
The association stresses the importance of the traditional butcher,who also offers a guarantee of quality.”There, where you are buying at a meat store or can get expert advice at the counter, that’s where you as a customer have more control,” a spokesman says.
Farmer Ralph Nolle is hopeful that the Kaufnekuh platform may help him to market his cattle better.”This is a new kind of marketing that we want to try out,” he says.
At the moment things are in the start-up phase, but if the customer response is positive, he can imagine putting more of his cows up for sale on the internet.
“The animals must meet the standards of Kaufnekuh — they have to be heavy and to have been raised on feed from the farmer’s own field,”he says.
On Nolle’s farm, his animals are fed maize, grass and hay grown on the farm, which he says has a positive effect on the meat.
“I think it is very important that a piece of meat does not come from the freezer — as many children perhaps now think — but rather from an animal that had once lived and had feelings. The personal link is very important,”
Andre Baumann, chairman of the Nature Protection Federation, says.”Now, with the internet, one can again have a certain relationship with the animal.” — dpa