Australian-born Emma Pike has made a career out of building businesses from scratch. After moving to Hong Kong, she decided to take the leap into food and began Farmer’s Market, an online meat retailer specializing in quality meats from Australia.
How did you become passionate about exceptional meat?
I wasn’t looking to get into the meat business. I’ve had businesses ranging from online swimwear to web design so for me it wasn’t the product, it was the opportunity I saw in the market. I could see the quality of meat products in supermarkets deteriorating and prices going up so I decided to try to offer an affordable but better product to consumers in Hong Kong.
What led you to start Farmer’s Market?
I had a conversation at a bar with a farmer one night, and after hearing how passionate they were about meat and the industry, it led me to look further into the industry in HK to see if it was possible to import better quality products from traceable sources.
Why did you decide to take meat retailing online?
Money! To have a physical store I had to get investors or raise capital to fund the store, take on a large amount of stock, staff etc. Having a strong background in IT it was easy for me to start up a business online. I sat down, made a plan, designed and built the website, registered the company and off I went!
What do you think makes a good cut of meat?
It goes right back to the farms. It really does make a huge difference how happy the cows are right up until the point of production. If you have stressed animals, under nutritioned animals or animals being kept in unsuitable environments, it makes a big difference to the flavour and quality of the meat.
What are your personal favorite cuts of meat?
What are your favorite meat dishes?
I do love a beef wellington! Second to that would be either a slow-cooked leg of lamb or shoulder of lamb (I’m talking 11 hours!) or crumbed lamb cutlets. I guess I’m a beef and lamb fan when it comes to meat.
What issues have you found with meat/meat supplies in Hong Kong?
Weather plays a big part in the meat industry. In the winter we have low stock issues sometimes because farmers don’t want to send their cattle to production before they are at at their optimum weight — they don’t put on weight like they do in summer because they get lazy and don’t eat as much. Similarly, our current issue with lamb is due to farmers having huge problems with the drought at the moment — which means lamb supplies are very low right now.
What have you learned from starting Farmer’s Market?
So much! From types of cattle down to ways of farming on land and at sea. One of the best experiences I had was spending a day at the Barramundi farm source from and seeing how they separate different fish by age and size, how they stay sustainable, how they farm in clean waters all the time and how it all works. It was fascinating.
From a business perspective, I’ve learnt a lot about marketing and sales and what I think customers want, and then trying to implement that to give them what they want.
How does Farmer’s Market differ from other boutique butchers/meat suppliers in Hong Kong? Is it just that you’re online?
I think the biggest difference is our honesty and transparency. There are a number of good online butchers out there, and sometimes if people call me and we don’t have a product I often refer them to other butchers I trust. I think because of that we are respected in the market. We aren’t out there to charge a fortune for a product, we are out there to offer a trustworthy, traceable, sustainable and affordable product to those that want this.
Why focus on Australian meat?
Because it’s the best! We find the farming standards in Australia to be among the highest — if not the highest in the world. So you know you are getting a quality product time and time again. We have branched out to importing Spanish pork and chicken now due to requests from customers, but again these are from good, reliable, trustworthy sources.
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