Beef

Would You Want a Raw Meat Delivery?

September 21, 2015

Good news (or is it?): You can now get flash-frozen, 100% grass-fed beef delivered to your door. 

If you had the opportunity to get a box of 15 to 20 meals'-worth of 100% grass-fed, pre-cut beef delivered to your door every month, would you?

Mike Salguero, the owner of ButcherBox, is betting that you would. And judging from the 556 backers of his KickStarter project, which has raised (as of this morning) nearly $108,000, he might be right.

On his KickStarter page, Salguero claims that only 1% of the total beef produced in the U.S. is 100% grass-fed, and that it comes from farms that often don't have the means to market and distribute their products. His solution is to partner with the sources of grass-fed beef to bolster these businesses and make it possible for more Americans to eat 100% grass-fed cuts. (There are, of course, other ways to order high-quality beef online; Greensbury Market, for example, offers organic, grass-fed beef, as well as pork, chicken, and seafood.) 

The meat from ButcherBox is flash frozen and individually packaged; the packages are separated into cardboard boxes based on cut on meat; the cardboard is put into a styrofoam box filled with dry ice. Those cardboard boxes can be kept in your freezer upon arrival. (And each box comes with recipes and tips for making the most of your package.)

A one-month kits costs $129, and since each box comes with 15 to 20 meals, that's between $6.45 and $8.60 per meal—significantly less than what you would pay for high-quality meat at the butcher. The first meat kits are expected to ship in November. 

But while Michael Pollan has written about the health benefits of grass-fed beef and Marian Burros wrote about the taste benefits (in 2006!), is this subscription service really the best solution?

For people with limited access to high-quality meat, it might be. But consider the downsides, too: For one, there's the packaging and the energy costs: Each piece of meat is individually packaged, then placed in cardboard, then placed in styrofoam, then surrounded by dry ice, then packed into yet another box, and then shipped a great distance.

Next, there's the reality that your business to ButcherBox might be diverting funds from local farms; when you use a site like LocalHarvest.org to find closer-to-home sources of high-quality meat, you are creating the demand that keeps local farms afloat.

And lastly, you're losing the experience of going to the butcher, interacting with local business people and experts. It's something to keep in mind as subscription services continue to proliferate. ButcherBox asks us to "Think of [them] as the neighborhood butcher for modern America." Do we really want our neighborhood butchers, already so scarce, mailed to us?

If you wouldn't be excited to receive a box of frozen meat in the mail, don't worry! There are other options for just as quirky subscription services: 

  • Cake of the Month Club: For $29.99, you can receive one gourmet cake per month. The subscription "features a sinful selection of truly exquisite cakes from notable bakers around the country." 
  • Pickles and Chocolate Every Month: Explicity marketed towards pregnant women, these packages are $60 for 3 months (or $50 for 9).
  • The German Candy Club: "No overpriced German food anymore." (Is German food overpriced? Regardless, it's $25.99 for 3 pounds of German candy.)
  • BroteinBox: You can deduce what this is. 
  • The Ramen Box: It comes with 6 to 8 "carefully curated" packages of sealed ramen. All items are kept secret until they are delivered: "Don't worry, we will not send you the ten-cent ramen. It's the good stuff."
  • The Bombay Box: Each month, you'll receive up to 7 sweet and savory Indian snacks celebrating a different Indian holiday or tradition. 

Would you subscribe to a meat box? Tell us your thoughts in the comments! 

Photos by James Ransom and Mark Weinberg

9 Comments

John M. September 10, 2018
wow, if in the detroit area try out https://www.johnhenrys.net/ for the freshest delivery
 
ChefJune September 24, 2015
I'm lucky to live near enough to the Union Square Greenmarket in New York where farmers bring the most amazing meat and poultry raised free and mostly organic on their farms. Shoot! they're glad to tell you what their animals eat! :)<br />however, if I lived where grass fed meat was not readily available, I might find this service welcome.
 
Jordan1324 September 21, 2015
I've been a subscriber to a meat CSA for more than five years. Our rancher provides beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Some years have included goat and rabbits. Occasionally we get duck, and one memorable holiday season there was turkey. You learn to prepare what's available (not unlike our experience with out veg and fruit CSA). And, we've had the important experience of visiting the ranch - and our now teenage son has occasionally met the animals that nourish us. Granted it's California, and many foodie things are easier here...but in my experience, no praise is too high. Check them out. http://theforagers.com
 
cv September 21, 2015
I'm simply not a fan of the grab bag concept. My meat consumption is quite small and I am very deliberate in my animal protein selection. Heck, I'm deliberate about my produce selection as well.<br /><br />This is definitely a option worth considering if you don't live near a source of locally-grown grass-fed beef and you enjoy the grab bag concept. I live in Northern California, so sourcing grass fed beef is not difficult (two stands sell it at my town's farmers market) like it is for Marcellene.<br /><br />Of course, there are cattle ranchers who ship grass-fed beef. I'm familiar with Full of Life Farms who used to sell at my farmers market (they quit selling at farmers markets and focused on online sales) and they are proliferating because cracking the commercial meat distribution channel is difficult for a small cattle rancher.<br /><br />The basic concept of shipping raw meat is nothing new. Grain-fed producers like Omaha Steaks have been doing this for decades.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. September 21, 2015
Yep, definitely not a new concept, but the packaging and marketing seem different! I guess the question becomes whether, if you can't get grass-fed beef in your area, it makes sense to use the resources (money, energy, waste) to get it shipped to you (or if it makes more sense to cut back on meat consumption!).
 
cv September 21, 2015
Cutting back on meat consumption is a far more responsible stance in terms of the environment. Raising animals for food is a big strain on the planet. <br /><br />Don't get me wrong, I like my meat, however I choose to eat very small portions. It's healthier and a more responsible way of enjoying this planet's bounty without giving it up completely. Sure, I eat conventionally produced meat from time to time, but I can say that it's more the exception than the norm.<br /><br />Ultimately, it's a personal decision. I'm not sure one can quantify all of the various factors: grass-fed vs. grain-fed, local farms vs. remote, large producers vs. small, driving yourself vs. common carrier shipping, healthier vs. not as healthy, etc. and come up with a metric that is meaningful.<br /><br />However, about 40% of the food made in America goes uneaten. If this sort of mental exercise results in thoughtful and deliberate consumption of food that wastes less, well, then whatever choice you make is arguably justifiable.<br /><br />I spend a lot on groceries since most of it comes from farmers market however I am very intent on minimizing waste of what I buy.<br /><br />If you are buying cheap food but throwing half of it away, that's an atrocious use of this planet's limited resources.<br /><br />The pretty packaging and marketing from this Kickstarter doesn't really speak to me. I'd rather go into a butcher shop, talk to live humans, and get a white or pink wrapped parcel.<br /><br />For sure, the presentation of the package contents will appeal to some, but it's not enough to get me to subscribe.
 
Marcellene September 21, 2015
I live on the coast in South Carolina. There are no decent butchers of grass fed meat in this area. What is the difference if Butcherbox ships to me or I drive to Charleston to buy good meat which has been transported to that butcher? I believe it is a good option for people like myself who can't walk down the street to their excellent butcher. Remember, not everyone lives in an area that has a Starbucks and a butcher! BTW, we are VERY okay with that - we eat seafood and veggies most of the time anyway.
 
boulangere September 21, 2015
No. I neither need nor want it. I am thrilled to live in a region where I personally know several producers of grass-feed beef, and I can either drive out their ranches and pick it up in person, or they will deliver it to me (either at home or at work), or I can purchase it fresh at a market 2 blocks from my house.
 
Adam J. September 21, 2015
I want a live, pet cow delivery service!