Imagine this: You hear a playfully rhythmic knock on your front door. You weren't expecting anyone: your mobile hangover unit has already come and gone, and the masseur isn't due until half past 11. You open the door, and standing on your welcome mat is a smiling gentleman offering you the finest steaks around—and for a steal.
In New York City, such people would be readily dismissed as bath salts users or figments of one's own bath salt-induced fever dream. In the rest of the US, however, door-to-door meat sales occur with surprising frequency.
We may be living in an era when the butcher shop has gone the way of the travel agent's office (outside of metropolitan areas populated by farm-to-table-minded consumers, that is), but America is hardly wanting for grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and even online meat sellers.
And yet the old-fashioned door-to-door salespeople are apparently common enough that The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently thought it wise to issue a warning to state residents about purchasing their animal proteins from strangers on their doorsteps.
While door-to-door meat sales aren't necessarily illegal (though some municipalities may require permits), they can invite "some bad actors to take advantage of their customers," said MDARD director Jamie Clover Adams in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. The office reminds consumers not to purchase meat that isn't refrigerated, and to check for USDA seals of inspection on their protein purchases. The MDARD claims that it hasn't received any complaints or reports of illness to date.
But Michigan is hardly alone in dealing with door-to-door meat sales. North Carolina's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued its own warning, presumably aimed at the "senior citizens, stay-at-home parents or shut-ins" that door-to-door salespeople might target.
Earlier this summer, the Better Business Bureau cautioned Kansas residents of two door-to-door steak outfits in particular: "MoKan Steaks" and "Ranch House Quality Meats." After spending $187 on six boxes of frozen meat from a pushy MoKan salesman, one woman Googled the company and discovered "hundreds of complaints from people getting sick after eating MoKan Steak's meat."
Last year, Oklahoma City area residents reported a string of "inappropriate" salesmen coming to their doors, one of whom reportedly claimed that he closed every meat deal with a hug. In the case of one unlucky woman, "the salesman forced her into an embrace, then left her with four boxes of meat she said is too rancid to even feed her dogs."
Now, you might be asking: Where does this meat come from? Or: How can I get in on this shady meat business for myself?
A January 2013 blog post from door2doormeat.blogspot.com extols the many virtues of starting an unlicensed meat resale business, noting "With The economey diwndleing down to nothing everyone is looking for fool proof ways to make money" (sic throughout). According to the post, all you need to get started is a pickup truck, a 14-cubic-foot freezer, and an account from a wholesale meat supplier.
The blog author claims that a case of frozen steaks can range from $75 to $90 wholesale, which is then resold at a massive markup to the customer: "My Brochure says that my steak package retails for 575 and wholesales for $500. Usually I tell my customers if they buy one case of steaks at the wholesale price $500 I will give them 1 case of of there choice for free. So if i pay 75 dollers per cases my profit from a Buy One Get One Free sale is $350 do 5 of these deals a day and you made $1600 for the day not a bad deal if you ask me" (sic again).
Got that? The unbelievable deal you just scored could very likely be a five-fold payday for the man who insists on giving you a hug.