New Startup Lets You Buy Shares of a Cow Before It’s Slaughtered

Seattle-based startup Crowd Cow has introduced crowdfunding to the meat industry in a bid to promote the idea of sustainably raised meat. Through Crowd Cow, customers get to place their orders on specific cuts of a cow in the exact quantities they need. The cow is finally slaughtered only when it has ‘tipped’, which means that at least 67 percent of it has been claimed online. It sounds rather brutal to be placing bids on parts of a live cow, but according to co-founders Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry, this system actually promotes responsible and sustainable meat harvesting.

The duo hit upon the idea for the startup when they realised that the average grocery buyer has no real idea of the origins of store-bought packaged meat. “People want to know where their meat comes from and how it’s raised and they want to explore it like wine,” Heitzeberg said. “There’s genetics, how it’s raised, all these aspects. Beef is a complex thing, it’s the centerpiece of the meal and people want to buy local.” But if they were to purchase grass-fed beef from a ranch instead, most people would have to get large quantities of meat that would be very difficult to store.

Heitzeberg and Lowry, both seasoned entrepreneurs, realised that they could use their experience and knowledge of crowdfunding to solve this problem. By having 50 or more people contribute to the purchase of one cow, everyone could have access to high-quality meat at an affordable price. So they set up Crowd Cow, a startup that purchases a head of cattle from independent ranches across Washington. The cows are made available on the website one at a time, and customers are invited to place claims to various shares.


Photo: Crowd Cow/Facebook

Their latest cow, which has now tipped, came from a small ranch named Harlow Cattle Company. “Harlow Cattle Company raises premium quality Angus/Hereford cross cattle on 320 acres of expansive prairie in central Pierce County, Washington,” the website explains. “The cattle are thoughtfully raised, quietly handled, and roam freely on the prairie grasses and lush bottomland pastures of the ranch. Crowd Cow coordinates the purchase of a head of cattle directly from the rancher. You get the very best of beef, at a great price, and only buy the amount you want.”

The packages on the latest cow that are still available for purchase include ‘Premium Ground Beef’ (two pounds each) for $16, Tongue for $22, Liver for $12, and Kidney for $9. The other packages, like the $134 ‘Steak Only Share’, the $129 ‘Grill Master Share’, and the $124 ‘Premium Share’ are all sold out.


Photo: Crowd Cow/Facebook

Crowd Cow only charges buyers’ credit cards when the cow ‘tips’ – at least 67% of it has been claimed – and is cleared for slaughter. The meat is then dry-aged for about 14 days to improve tenderness and flavor, and then processed. The cuts are individually packaged in single-serving sizes and flash-frozen before they are shipped out to customers.

According to the co-founders, Crowd Cow has plenty of advantages. Direct purchase from the farm eliminates overhead costs, so Crowd Cow meat is a priced at least 10 to 30 percent lower than similar produce from boutique butcheries. Buyers also wouldn’t need to have much freezer space, because Crowd Cow provides manageable portion sizes that fit a typical refrigerator’s freezer compartment.


Photo: Crowd Cow/Facebook

But the biggest advantages are taste and health, both unmatched by store-bought meat. “A cow’s natural diet is grass – not grain,” the website explains. “Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat than grain-fed, but higher in healthy omega-3 fats,” the website explains. “These crucial healthy fats are most plentiful in flaxseeds and fish, and are also found in walnuts, soybeans and in meat from animals that have grazed on omega-3 rich grass. Grass-fed beef also has higher levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and other healthy nutrients.”

The founders personally vouch for the taste, claiming that they actually consume beef more often now. “I feel better about eating it and it’s really delicious,” Heitzeberg said. “The ground beef for example – I feel like I’ve lived my whole life missing out on the secret, which is that ground beef from a healthy animal, that’s dry-aged beef is so much better. I will not order any hamburgers in any restaurant. I can’t do it. It’s bland. It’s a waste of money.”


For now, Crowd Cow ships only to towns in Washington and Oregon, but the founders hope to expand very soon. “We don’t have to limit ourselves just to beef,” said Lowry. “People who are buying beef are also buying pork and poultry and lamb… and ostrich… and bison.”

“We want it to be incredibly good,” added Heitzeberg. “So when a person tries Crowd Cow, they’re blown away with how amazing the experience was. And that’s partly because we’re geeks and it’s fun.”

Sources: Seattle Met, Geekwire

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