New Meat Label

Meat Label version

Business Card version

Original Post First – Updates Below

Up until now we have sold direct to customers but I have been getting many requests from restaurants and stores for pastured pork. Selling wholesale means some different regulations and I’m researching that now. One important detail is that little sticker that get slapped on the package. I don’t want to use the butcher’s label, especially not at $15 per pig. Doing that would mean people would not be seeing our name thus losing marketing opportunity. I’m not about to pay the butcher for the privilege of marketing his business.

So I need to make up a meat label and that has been my indoor task for the day. The above is my current version which I’ve just sent off to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to have it checked to make sure it meets their requirements. I found some specifications in this document which covers both Vermont and USDA labeling requirements. Interesting reading.

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The Label Wall at the Butcher

My label design is 3.25″ x 4.25″ which seemed to be the most common size of the labels stuck on the wall at the butcher shop. I photographed the wall while I was there so I’ve been able to study other people’s labels at my leisure. In the photo above of the label wall I’ve added a digital copy of our label for comparison purposes. There are actually two copies, one with and one without the black border on our label. Clicking on the label wall photo will get you a bigger version where you can see more detail.

I could have gone with one or two colors but the Buy Local, the Vermont Seal of Quality and the Certified Naturally Grown logos are in full color. They make good use of color so I want to use them that way rather than reducing them to black & white. I may initially inkjet print these on label stock, if that is allowed by the state, and seal them with a clear coat. That makes it so that full-color is easy to do. If I go to commercial printing later that may change.

This is my first meat label. I would be very interested in comments from people about the above label. Do you like it? Why or why not? What is good and bad? I would love to hear both from people looking at it as buyers of food as well as those of you who raise and sell meat.

By the way, my lovely and talented wife Holly drew the portrait of the pig. If you haven’t done so already, check out her online portrait gallery. She is an excellent artist, if I do say so. And no, I’m not biased. Well, not much. :)

Update: I found the USDA web pages for information about labels. Check out:

FSIS Forms 7234-1 Label Application

Labeling Policies

Label Application Guidance

Labeling Top Ten Questions

Labeling Top Ten Mistakes

Mandatory Label Features

Raising Claims

Label Sumission Procedures

Small & Very Small Plant Outreach

Food Safety Images

CSUCHIO.edu Grassfed Beef link

The circumstances under which the use of the term “natural” may be used on the labeling of meat and poultry products are described in Policy Memo 055, “Natural Claims” (enclosed). Policy Memo 055 provides that the term “natural” may be applied only to products that contain no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. Minimally processed products that do not contain these types of ingredients, such as fresh meat and poultry, will automatically qualify for the use of the term “natural” on product labeling.
FSIS Claims

Labels are a saga, not a threshold so here are some updates

2007-02-20 Update: I have updated the label based on suggestions so please keep leaving comments. Don’t hesitate to comment again if you already have done so! The original artwork is still on the wall of stickers below. The design above has passed the first round of comments with the Vermont Department of Agriculture. Next, after more comment time here, it is off to Washington for the design to get USDA approval. -WJ

2007-02-22 Update: Colors and some text adjusted. I’m interested in all feedback, positive, negative, etc. Doesn’t mean I’ll implement everything, but I do want to hear how people see it and their ideas!

2007-02-23 Update: I received in the mail this morning comments on the revised label from the Vermont Dept of Ag along with spec sheets. In general it was good although they were amused I think by the NoNAIS.org. He suggested submitting it to the USDA and seeing what they said. Above is a new version, with the added Safe Handling Instructions section. Note that changes the dimensions of the label to 4.25″ x 4.25″. There are other changes based on the paper work sent by Mr. Mitchell as well as suggestions from people here and on the forum about colors, moving elements around, etc. I have also added more to the links below for resources on label specs and related info. Please do keep commenting. I’ve also updated the wall of labels photo to show the new version as well as some of the older versions. We are now working on revision C (#12). I like the way it’s going. Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to comment and submit suggestions!

2007-02-26 Update: The biggest changes are the Buy Local logo and that I’ve been de-cluttering hard to get it as simple as possible. I also have darkened the Sugar Mountain Farm name. I tried lighter as some had suggested but in the black & white version it became too much like the background. Several people have suggested putting an outline of Vermont on the card to drive home the point. A big problem with the last version was the teeny-tiny text in the VT Buy Local symbol. Steve Justis of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture said I couldn’t modify the Vermont Buy Local logo but that the words Buy Local aren’t trademarked so I should just make up my own logo. Above is my first attempt. I’ve posted it on my wall and will look at it for a few days to see how it feels. Let me know what you think in comments, on both the new logo and the label in general. I really appreciate all the great feedback and suggestions for changes!

2007-03-09 Update: I ordered Business Cards to get a proof of what the label would look like. See that post for the continuing label journey…

2007-03-17 Update: More reading, more changes… See Label Progress.

2008-09-11 Update: Primera Label Printer Update and New Label Version.

2009-07-01 Update: More Printer Notes and Label Refinements.

2010-02-05 Update: More Printer Notes and Label Refinements.

2011-03-09 Update: Meat Ribs Label.

Current: Retail Label.

Outdoors: 10°F/6°F Sunny, Very Windy, Snow Devils
Farm House: 63°F/48°F seven logs
Tiny Cottage: 53°F/45°F no work

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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39 Responses to New Meat Label

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like the design and color. It stands out and is easy to tell what product you are selling. I think by doing the color, especially of the other logos within yours it shows how proud you are of your product. Well that my thoughts if I had to pick out from the wall of stickers.
    Paige

  2. Anonymous says:

    Looks great! I like the label with the black border on the wall with the rest of the labels the border makes it stand out more. I also like the happy smile on the humanely, naturally raised, free range pork, he looks like he was happy, and stress free. I’m assuming the center of the pig on the label is where the weight stamp will go. Holly did a great job.

  3. pablo says:

    I don’t think it looks a thing like you . . . oh, wait a minute. Never mind.

    It’s nice how the green stands out against all of the boring white stickers on that board.

  4. GrannyGardner says:

    From the consumer standpoint I feel the label has all the information I’d want. The label is both attractive and informative. I think many times people try to put too much information on a label.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good work.
    Clear, concise, simple and fun.
    My only regret may be that it is not in French, which is the law in these parts – but if I end up bringing a wholesale order thorugh, I will make my own stickers for you. Are you in the know of any farms similar to yours on my side of the border?
    Nosher of the North
    Montreal, Canada
    http://www.Ethicurean.com

  6. Anonymous says:

    The smile on the animal’s face says it all.

    Erik

  7. The pig is awesome, I like the green color and the information you’ve provided on the label. My only comment would be that my eye had to hunt a bit to find your farm name. It was drawn first to the Buy Local and CNG labels at the top. So I don’t know if swapping them to the bottom and the farm name to the top would maybe help, or a different coloring maybe.

    Our locker doesn’t charge us for labeling, so our products come double labeled. The locker puts their label on it with contents and weight. Then we either add our (cheap ink-jet printed) label after picking up the meat from the locker, or we had a stamp made that’s the same as our label and the locker will stamp our packages for us.

    Someday I’d like to have a single custom label, but right now we can’t justify the extra expense.

  8. Crystal says:

    I really like your label. It packs a lot of information into a small place. I like the color and the large pig (let’s ya know what yer buyin). I really like the slogan at the top (farm to table). I might try doing something different w/the placement or color of “Sugar Mountain Farms.” It looks pretty where it is but my eyes just pass right over it. Somehow it blends in. I think for marketing reasons you want your name to be in the place that the eye naturally looks first (top or top left). Red is also a color that draws the eye (but w/the green it would probably look x-massy). I think the best example on the board is the North Hollow Farm label. The name is the focus. One great thing is that on the board my eye naturally goes to your label first because of the combo of green background w/the huge white pig. Anyway great job! Hope my 2 cents help. It may be worth rearranging a little I don’t know. If you have to search for space maybe shrink the two logos just slightly… I dunno. Good luck. Even if you don’t change a thing, it’s a lovely label!

  9. Crystal says:

    OH oH!~! Try bright yellow trimmed in black for Sugar Mtn Farms.

  10. Joanna from Greensboro Bend says:

    I would certainly go for that – being a mom of two, when I am shopping I do not have time to decipher labels. This is nice and clear, and I personally like the green as it suggests ‘pastured’ to me, and would attract my attention at the outset.

    Off Topic question please – when they are pastured, do they need very heavy duty fencing? Can they be pastured with other animals or is that generally a bad plan? When is a good time to purchase a piglet? Can you tell I am really really new at this? :)

  11. I like it Walter/Holly! My only comments are: be sure you have enough room on the white pig for the butcher to stamp the type of meat cuts and maybe reduce the VT AG buy local logo to the same size as the cert. naturally grown label. How about the VT AG clover logo instead? I never have cared much for the buy local campaign. Seems like an afterthought by the agency for the non-dairy farmers out there.

    Mark
    http://www.jerichosettlersfarm.com

  12. Urban Agrarian says:

    Really really nice looking label.

    I like the way you put nonais right under the USDA label

  13. Joanna, we don’t have very strong fencing. We do have electric fencing around the perimeter of the fields although I would not call it especially tight. If I lived with closer neighbors I would put up tighter fencing. We get away with it because:

    1) We have lots of space. Everything the pigs want is inside the pastures – food, water, bedding, friends. Everything they don’t want is outside – predators, dark scary woods, etc. This is a big factor.

    2) We have stone walls around the fields except for the entrances. It is interesting that even a low stone wall keeps them in. For a long time we didn’t have fences. Occasionally they did go out, mostly along the woods roads.

    3) We have livestock guardian dogs who don’t like predators coming in and don’t like pigs going out where they’re not supposed to be. For example, yesterday Houdini, the adventurous gilt, got out of where she was supposed to be and onto the driveway. Kita and Cinnamon held her in place and Kita called me to come open the gate. Then they put Houdini back in. The dogs have a strong sense of right and wrong – animals out of place is very wrong to them.

    3) We don’t have any near neighbors so I don’t have to worry much about the pigs going to their gardens and harvesting their veggies. It is 3,000′ to the closed house and a mile to the next in all directions.

    If I lived in an area with more people I would fence more tightly for sure. Then I would probably go with 3 or 4 strands of high tensile electric smooth wire set at 6″, 12″, 18″ and 24″. Since we have sheep to I would also do 36″ and 48″.

    There is an alternative that is very simple, use electrified poultry netting. It is $130 or so for a net and it will last for years. The pigs are very good with it. You can move them around inside it to do intensive rotational grazing. Very simple.

    Our pigs graze right along with our sheep, chickens, ducks and goose without any problem. The only time it is an issue is during mob feeding scenes when a chicken might get stepped on so use a creep for the chickens and during lambing when the pigs get too curious with the lambs so separate the ewes out for a week.

  14. I just got off the phone from speaking with our butcher. He had gone over the label with the USDA inspector and everything looks good so off to Washington soon. He also said that the white space within the pig is plenty big enough for the printing of what cuts, etc.

  15. Urbanna, Putting NoNAIS.org under the USDA logo was my son Ben’s (age 10) idea. Already he knows how to subtly subvert.

  16. karl says:

    walter, please don’t post the following comment. my opinion is for you, not the rest of the blogshere.

    1. sugar mountain is illegible in blue. to help to get your contrast legibility right turn the whole thing to grey scale and then see how legible it is. possibly play with darker or lighter stroke/outline around the letters.

    2. visually the pig is more important in the label then the brand name its self.

    3. i really like the green color. it implies earth and health.

    4. the co-branding logos are too prominent. maybe they could go at the bottom and not use flashier colors than the rest or your label.

    the sugar mountain farm might look good above the pigs back following his contour possibly implying a mountain skyline?

    i know it’s a little harsh but i hope you take it in the spirit that i send it–admiration and best wishes.

    warm regards,
    karl

  17. Anonymous says:

    The new design is even better and makes the pig look happier.
    Paige

  18. Podchef says:

    Great label Walter/Holly!

    It is clear, easy to ready and informative. It also stands out.

    Now that you have a logo you’ll have to start branding–be sure to put it up on your main site when approved.

    Farmers in VT seem ahead of the curve on this one. I don’t know of any of 100 or so local farmers who sell locally who have labels for their products here in WA. Great stuff.

  19. EllaJac says:

    So, will the USDA actually approve a label that advertises an active resistance to their favorite Plan (NAIS)?

    That will be great, if they do!

  20. karl says:

    ok, publish. i was compelled to comment but had no time to be anything but curt.

  21. Karl, I didn’t find your comments at all curt. You had some very good points, like the fact that I had forgotten to check how the colors worked in greyscale/black & white. Thanks for the reminder!

    I’m not looking for Yes’ums. If that was what I wanted I would ask one of the dogs. I greatly value the feedback that all of you are able to give, positive and negative. I only see the label with one pair of eyes and with my blinders of preconception. Hearing from other people has been extremely helpful! Keep the comments coming. What do you like? What works? What doesn’t work? What do you hate? What is just blah!?

    Also note that I’ve been adding links at the end of the article above as I worm my way through the state and USDA label approval process. This is both for my own memory and to hopefully help others should they want to do the same sort of thing.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  22. scully says:

    I guess I am in the minority, but the ONLY thing I don’t like about the label is the shade of green. I don’t like blue-greens when it comes to meat labels. Makes me think of meat gone bad. If one is trying to convey earthiness (as someone said) I like darker green shades. Or maybe pig-pink :)

    Let me know if your fine meats find their way to the Tunbridge/Bethel/Randolph area. My wife is technically a vegetarian, but she said she’d eat Sugar Mountain Farm products if they were available in our area.

  23. Scully, Mold blue green does sound rather unappetizing! I was shooting for a grass green of the pastures. On the wall of labels it shows two different greens on the Sugar Mountain Farm designs. Which one do you like better, the top one or the bottom one?

  24. crystal says:

    … i like the brighter green. It stands out more.

  25. Urban Agrarian says:

    To me, the safe cooking instructions can appear to be on a closer plane to my face than the green label. If there is a way that, assuming the “light” is coming from the upper left, to create a “shadow” under the green part, then it would be interesting to see if it would make the green part pop out more? I hope this make sense.

  26. How does it look now? I added a inner drop shadow to the white panel creating a shadow from light in the upper left making the panel drop inward. Hope that effect works. Let me know.

  27. Deb says:

    I like it. The shadow on the what part below looks good. Have you tried putting this on a package of meat yet to see how the color of the meat and the label work together?

  28. crystal says:

    Walter, I LOVE the new label. It looks great! I still think you can make SMF stand out more with a different color. Look at the billboard, your label stands out color wise & grafics wise but the name itself does not really stand out as much as it could. If you decide to stick with blue, try lightening the shade to provide more contrast against the green. Even if you don’t make any more changes, it looks awesome!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I dont like how the VT state outline looks. It looks all jumbled in that area, takes away from the entire design.
    Paige

  30. Anonymous says:

    I like the SMF at the top better. Having the pigs legs behind the SMF makes it hard to read SMF. I can see getting rid of the complicated BuyLocal logo and replacing it with the simple VT outline works, but I would keep SMF at the top, above the arch of the pigs back. Looks much cleaner, less muttled to me.

    Charles

  31. Hmm… Was I too realistic with the outline? Would a simpler sketch outline of the state be better or is the problem with the words too?

  32. FarmerJeff says:

    I don’t know if its a legal requirement, but I can think of no better way to ruin grassfed pork than to cook to 160.

  33. annie says:

    Hi,

    Discoverd your blog a little while ago and thought I may as well put my 2¢ in about the meat label:

    How about the Vermont state logo in the upper left corner and “Sugar Mountain Farm” across the top – message being “Buy Local” but specifically FROM Sugar Mt. :-)

    The pig is great – make it as big as possible!

    Could it be standing on a patch of grass/pasture that would be the bottom part of the label and have the upper part be “sky” so to speak, maybe pale blue?

  34. Don says:

    Walter,

    I really have admired the adjustments you have made while creating your meat label. Just a really technical, minor comment from an English Lit major. In the top right corner you have two phrasal adjectives (grass-fed and free-ranged). Technically, you should hyphenate both of these. Anyway, sorry to be such a geek about it. I also really like the fact that your business card and meat label will be so similar. You are well on your way to having a recognizable brand.

    Don

  35. Don, thanks for clearing that up. I’ve fixed it now. I wasn’t sure on that. Another thing, language-wise, that bugs me is the “Buy Local” which should be “Buy Locally” if I understand correctly. But it has become a catch phrase. At one point I added the LY but then took it back off. Cheers, -WalterJ

  36. Abe says:

    Excellent label design. Good design means your customers will develop recognition and that will help you build long term sales and brand recognition. Keep up the good work. By the way: I have one of these LX printers too. Mine is the 800. Very nice machines.

  37. Sulla says:

    I really like the label. When you look at it you want to read it. I don’t feel anxious when I look at it and I feel the information on it is informative. It looks clean and crisp and fresh and not old or gross or some type of label that I wouldn’t want on what i’m buying. I think it’s a great label.

  38. MattzMeats says:

    I love the label. I’m planning to get an LX400 or 800 Primera printer and was looking to find out how reall people were using it. Thanks for all the infor.

  39. andrew says:

    You have a lovely meat label. What a funny thing to say. I don’t usually think of meat labels as being lovely but yours caught my eye. It says it all. It makes me confident in eating what you make. Keep up the good work! I look forward to getting more meat from your farm.

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