Firsthand Foods Meat Case at Durham Co-Op

A Hug to Remember

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Last week, I received a hug from a customer that I will never forget. I was on my way to work and decided to drop by The Durham Co-Op Market to grab a snack and check in with the Meat Manager, Dawn (featured above), about an upcoming promotion. I headed over to the meat cooler where Firsthand Foods’ beef, pork, and lamb products are prominently featured.

I check in with Dawn and our co-op meat cooler somewhat regularly. The Durham Co-Op is one of our most committed customers and it is THE place in the Triangle where shoppers can get the widest selection of our products. We’ve invested in signage and branding to try and tell the story of where our meats come from, who the farmers are, how they raise their animals, and that it all comes from a local, women-owned business.

But it’s hard for us to know, as a wholesale business, if shoppers notice or care. We assume those efforts pay off since sales continue to grow but because we don’t interact with the end consumer all that much, it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected from what shoppers value.

So on this particular day, I noticed that the co-op was sold out of all but one of our packs of ground beef and had a fully-stocked selection of a competitor’s (non-local, grass-fed) ground beef for a $1.00/lb less. As a shopper approached the case, I wondered which she would choose. Local, pasture-raised or non-local grass-fed? My heart sank as she picked up our competitor’s product, put it in her cart, and began to walk away toward the dairy case. But then she paused, backed up, took the pack out of her cart and put it back on the shelf and chose the last pack of Firsthand Foods ground beef.

I was so surprised to see this happening right in front of me that I felt compelled to approach her. Slightly nervous that I might overwhelm her with my enthusiasm, I plunged forward anyway. I explained that I was one of the owners of the company and that it meant so much to me to see her choose local, pasture-raised meat when she had other options. She exclaimed, “I don’t usually do this, but could I give you a hug!?” And that hug made my day. In fact, it made my whole week! 

We work closely with our producers, our processors, and our retail locations and restaurants, but we do all of that work, ultimately, so that healthy, sustainably raised meat can end up in the shopping carts and on the plates of our customers. To see that in action just means so much. So, from all of us at Firsthand Foods, thank you to each and every customer who chooses local!