May 19, 2017
We’ve all heard the saying: you are what you eat. For food, this is clearly not a literal saying, but what we consume does contribute to our health and that is why quality is so important. This particularly true when it comes to meat, as many grocery stores are unnecessarily vague about where specifically your food comes from. As a result, more restaurants have embraced the farm-to-table concept, not only informing us of where the food comes from, but also ensuring its freshness due to less time in transit. But what if you want beef from that same local rancher? In most cases it’s an arduous, antiquated process consisting of going to the ranch, getting on a list, and then freezing an excessive amount of beef in a deep freezer.
A growing startup, Crowd Cow, is changing this one cut of beef at a time. More specifically, Crowd Cow allows consumers to crowdfund, or crowd carve up an entire cow, selecting various cuts of beef. In addition to picking the cuts, they also provide details regarding the type of cow, location it was raised, types of food it ate, and even how the rancher cared for the cow.
If the concept sounds familiar that’s because it’s a new take on an old approach. In the past if you wanted to know exactly where your beef came from you’d have to go either to the farmers market or to a rancher (sometimes you’ll get lucky with a great local butcher). When working with a rancher, typically you’re buying a large portion of the cow, and that means you’ll have nearly an endless amount of beef if your freezer at all times. I first learned of the concept in college when a friend brought over an entire cooler filled with steaks to store in our freezer because she ran out of space in her own. And if there is one thing a college kitchen needs is more freezer space for the wonderfully terrible food we ate.
Between technology, Crowd Cow’s innovative approach to shipping, and tapping into the largest pool of meat eaters in the US (the internet), they effectively add a much desired component to beef buying, knowledge. One could argue that this does remove some of the locality out of the process; however, the team behind the beef is no stranger to food or programming (founders of Urbanspoon and Snapvine), which ensures the beef gets to you in the most optimal way using the ideal temperature along the way. On top of this, as the company finishes up its nationwide rollout, more and more local ranches will become accessible, bringing your local ranches right to your door.
How important is knowledge about where your food comes? For starters, it’s worth at least $2 million in seed funding that Crowd Cow closed this January, including funds from NFL hall of famer Joe Montana.
Know Your Foods
As a meal prepper, knowing about my food is just as important as figuring out what I’m going to torture myself with for the next five days of lunches. With Crowd Cow, not only do you get the basics, you get first-hand information about how it was raised and cared for.
For example, at the time of writing, Crowd Cow currently has a cow from Spanaway, WA on the block. Hailing from the Harlow Cattle Company, their cows are premium quality angus hereford crosses that are raised on 320 acres of prairie land where they’ve fed on grass their entire life. If that’s not enough, here’s a sampling of information straight from the rancher herself (more here):
“I have not hired help running the ranch and cattle operation. Day and night, rain and shine, 24×7, 365 days a year, from bucking hay to vetting calves, weighing steers to mending fences, round-ups to bookkeeping, mud and manure, dust and dirt, I do all the ranch work myself,” stated Becky Harlow Weed.
What you’re getting with Crowd Cow is access to small, sustainable farms. Sure, on the surface the crowdfunding component is a bit of a gimmick, but by going in together with other people who care about what they eat, it ensures the entire cow will be used.
“You can go to the farmers market, if you remember, and maybe he has the cut you want or maybe didn’t bring it. We are trying to get people a lot more access to beef they can feel really good about. I love local, and I love the idea of people being able to try things from various places,” said Crowd Cow Cofounder Ethan Lowry.
The best comparison to what they Crowd Cow is creating can be seen in the craft beer market. If you are on the east coast you can easily get beer from the Chicago, DC, or Baltimore regions, including their specialty beers, but if you head over to California you’re less likely to find Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. For those in California, they get the coveted Pliny the Elder, with little to no distribution elsewhere. Just the same, Crowd Cow is not just acting as the distributor for locally and sustainably raised beef, it’s generating revenue for the little guys and gals.
“Our farms have distinctive flavors. Not just this homogeneous food they’ve been used to. Each farmer/rancher and even breed affects the taste. I love the idea of people developing an affinity for the one they want,” said Lowry.
Crowd Cow is a Seattle-based startup and is rolling out their nationwide offering. Until now they have primarily offered their small sustainable beer to the West Coast region, but are now on a mission to connect with ranchers outside the industrial beef industry.
Read more about startups emerging in Seattle here at Tech.Co
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