Meat Distribution: How Do Wholesale Meat Suppliers Work

Nick Mirev
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    Meat has been the most important source of protein for people throughout history. After the agricultural revolution, people started to cultivate different types of grains, legumes, and other products to meet their nutritional needs. However, the meat industry is still one of the biggest sectors in the economy. Nowadays, there are various meat trends in the global meat market. That’s why meat distribution companies need to be aware of the growing demand for vegan meat or the benefits of cultured meat. In the following paragraphs, we’ll share useful tips about meat suppliers, what wholesale meat is, and the trends in the industry. If you’re interested in topics related to bulk deli meat or wholesale meat products, check out our article on meat subscriptions.

    Key takeaway: Meat distribution is one of the important stages of the meat supply chain. Meat wholesalers act as intermediaries between processing plants and other businesses that are interested in purchasing bulk meat. Sustainability, automation, and improved sanitation standards are among the main trends that shape the sector.
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    What Is the Meat Distribution Sector

    The meat distribution industry is one of the most important stages of the meat supply chain. Meat distribution companies purchase processed meat from slaughterhouses and other processing facilities. Then they store it until it’s ordered from different businesses. Therefore, the meat distribution sector acts as the intermediary between businesses that serve meat or sell it in retail and processing facilities. 

    What Is the Meat Supply Chain

    There are three main stages of the meat supply chain – production, processing, and distribution. Let’s examine their features and characteristics.

    1. Meat production. Whether it’s beef or poultry, meat is produced by livestock farming companies. Large farms usually integrate a variety of business processes in the sector and can produce beef, pork, poultry, and other types of meat. Some small livestock farms might focus on a specific type of animal or a specific breed like Angus or Wagyu cattle.
    2. Meat processing. Producers, especially large ones, often have their own processing facilities. This step of the meat supply chain includes the slaughtering of the livestock and its processing into different meat products. The majority of the meat is for human consumption while other parts can be packed and prepared for manufacturing of animal feed or pet food.
    3. Meat distribution. Some companies in the meat industry have integrated all parts of the supply chain – from livestock farming to distribution. Others rely on suppliers who stock meat inventory and sell these products to retailers or other businesses. Wholesale sales of meat have increased in recent decades. From meat in restaurants to canned meat products, a variety of businesses purchase bulk meat products.
      Some companies prefer to skip intermediaries and don’t work with wholesalers. Instead, they partner either with meat processing plants or livestock farming companies. This can further reduce the cost of goods sold further. However, most businesses opt to work with meat distribution companies that sell wholesale products. These businesses can offer a wide range of products and fulfill custom orders based on their client’s preferences. An additional benefit of B2B sales through wholesalers is that they invest in tools and automation solutions that make the process easier for business owners and managers. From improved wholesale inventory management to seamless ordering and easy invoicing, there are multiple reasons to work with meat distribution companies.
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    What Are the Trends in Meat Distribution

    As with other industries, the meat market is also changing. Meat distribution companies, producers, and other businesses in the meat niche markets need in order to claim their place in the industry. Here are some of the trends in meat distribution.

    1. Organic and eco-friendly products. Sustainability has become a major factor when choosing meat products. A growing number of customers search for ethically sourced products that have minimal ecological footprint.
    2. New means of meat distributors. From ready-to-eat products to meat subscription boxes, meat distribution has been changing in recent years. Although reduced wholesale prices are among the main reasons why companies partner with meat wholesalers, they also look for flexibility in the field of distribution.
    3. Improved tracking, logistics, and food safety protocols. As meat is a perishable product, investments in logistics and tracking are important for businesses that purchase bulk meat. Furthermore, food safety and packaging protocols are constantly improved in order to extend the shelf life of meat products.
    4. Automation and AI. Suppliers who are interested in the topic of how to sell meat products more efficiently can improve their business processes with various automation tools. These solutions help with ordering, delivery optimization, and marketing of meat products.
    5. Increased demand for specialty products. Products like Black Angus or Japanese Wagyu beef have become more popular in recent years. The growing demand has led to changes in meat distribution and import. Other specialty products such as flavor-infused meat are also among the major trends in the sector. Probably the biggest trend in the field of specialty meat is related to cultured meat (produced by animal cells in a laboratory environment) and vegan meat alternatives (plant-based products with characteristics similar to meat but made from protein-rich ingredients like soy or pea protein).
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Meat Distribution

    Whether you’re wondering how to start a meat business or wish to know the latest trends in wholesale eCommerce sales, BlueCart is the place to find useful information. Below you can find the answers to some common questions about meat distribution and sales. Consider booking a demo with our team if you wish to examine how our wholesale distribution software can help your business.

    What Are the Popular Types of Meat in the US?

    Poultry is the most consumed meat in the US for the past few decades. Even though many associate American cuisine with steak, burgers, and other varieties of red meat, the demand for chicken meat has increased a lot. Nowadays, the average annual consumption of chicken meat per capita is around 100 pounds. Here are the other popular meat types in the US.

    • Beef;
    • Pork;
    • Fish (including shellfish and other seafood products);
    • Turkey;
    • Lamb;
    • Veal (the meat of calves);
    • Venison (the meat of deers);
    • Buffalo;
    • Vegan meat and cultured meat. 

    How Is Meat Stored?

    Meat is usually stored in a refrigerated environment with temperatures between 32°F and 40°F (0°C and 4°C). In order to extend its shelf life, meat products are usually packaged in vacuum-sealed bags or airtight containers. Different health standards related to the storage of meat have been introduced by businesses and organizations. They aim to reduce spoilage and prevent cross-contamination with other foods. There are other methods that further extend the shelf life of meat products:

    • Freezing (check out our article on how to ship frozen meat);
    • Smoking;
    • Curing;
    • Home canning – keep in mind that not all types of meat can be canned and special equipment is required to ensure the meat won’t spoil;
    • Freeze-drying.

    What Businesses Work with Meat Distribution Companies?

    Virtually all companies in the restaurant industry partner with wholesale meat distributors or broadline suppliers who also offer meat products. The same is true for hotels and hospitality groups. Food manufacturers and processors also often work with meat distribution companies as they need a reliable supplier of such products. Butcher shops and grocery stores might work directly with producers or farms. However, it’s more common for these businesses to work with intermediaries that can offer a wide range of products and use wholesale business software that can make the ordering process easier.

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