Grass-fed beef — the loose classification for meat from cattle that eats grass instead of grains — has grown in popularity over the past decade.
It is not new. The meat our grandparents ate was most definitely “grass-fed” as grazing cattle was less expensive than feeding them grains, which, before the 1950s, were quite pricey.
The resurgence in popularity for meat from grass-fed cows began slowly in the 2000s, and didn’t fully pick up steam until around 2010 when WholeFoods made a big push to showcase the differences between grain-fed — the industry standard still to this day — and grass-fed offerings. In the same year, the organic, healthy food grocer also announced that grass-fed beef would be available in all its stores.
While this is one way many people have been introduced to grass-fed beef — most likely in the form of ground beef — a lot of people who seek out grass-fed meats in 2017 do so by way of some the most popular current diet trends.
I was first made aware of grass-fed beef, through programs such as the Whole30 and Precision Nutrition. Trying to follow those programs and reading more about the benefits of grass-fed beef from the likes of Michael Pollan, the author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, made me want to try to eat more of this meat that was healthier in a number of ways.
This is how I ended up in someone’s living room one night picking out my very own $400 pile of meat as part of a cow share.
I had found the farmer through church; he was actually the father of a friend. Every year, he would gather people together and share that cow that they would kill and truck to Boston. Basically, he’d put the whole cow out in his living room and sell the various parts.
I thought that was cool and loved the quality of the meat. It was also better knowing the life cycle of that animal, and knowing where it originated. I thought it was interesting to have the option to purchase from someone who was raising cattle in a better manner than most other farmers out there. I also enjoyed lots of different cuts of beef; Whole Foods has only a limited selection of cuts, so this gave me the chance to try a lot of other stuff.
Over the next year, I would rave about the meat and people would ask, if, the next time he did it, that they could get some of the meat.
So the next year, bought a half cow myself and sold the shares to friends. The following year I bought a whole cow and sold the shares.
I quickly realized that this was a completely inefficient way to get grass-fed meat. More challenging was the realization that there’s not a lot of open freezer space in and around Boston.
When I say inefficient, I mean the process. The quality and variety were far better than what you could find at WholeFoods.
The cow share experiences were very similar to doing a CSA, which my wife and I had done regularly. With the CSA, we loved the idea of getting a box of assorted vegetables and other food from which we’d have to create a meal. The discovery process was appealing, figuring out what we were going to do with the random rutabaga that we got. That was really fun for us. Also, the idea of supporting a farm.
So with ButcherBox, I combined the two ideas, CSA and cow share, to create an experience for our customers where they get interesting and healthier meat delivered to their homes, guides on how to cook their food, and the opportunity to try cuts they may not be familiar with.
It’s not just supplying quality food, but also expanding people’s horizons. That’s the ButcherBox mission, and what we strive to accomplish.