Crowd Cow, the online service that allows consumers to buy craft meat direct from independent farms, announced today that it has raised $8 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Madrona Venture Group and had participation from Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures as well as existing investors Joe Montana (yes, that Joe Montana) of Liquid 2 Ventures. This brings the total amount raised by Crowd Cow to $10 million.

According to a press announcement, the new funding will help the company add ranches and farms to its platform, improve its supply chain and go “all-in on the search for new and unique flavors in categories like Craft Beef, Pastured Chicken, Heritage Pork, and beyond.”

Crowd Cow works by having “steakholders” purchase various cuts of a specific cow. Once the entire cow is purchased, the cow is “tipped” and then goes on to be processed, and its meat is packaged, frozen, and shipped directly to buyers.

I spoke with Crowd Cow founders Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry who said that they are creating this new type of communication loop. Crowd Cow is telling consumers exactly where their meat is coming from, and in turn, customer are providing feedback about the product directly back to the ranchers. Something the ranchers have never experienced before.

It’s transparency like this that consumers are looking for in their meat purchases. According to The Power of Meat report, conventional meat sales were flat in 2017, while meat with special production (natural, organic, etc.) and claims about ethical animal treatment saw “dollar gains of 4.8 percent and volume growth of 5.1 percent.” Millennials in particular like this type of special production, ensuring a market for Crowd Cow in years to come.

In addition to sourcing, Crowd Cow is doing work on the technology side with the supply chain, creating a logistics network that is able to process the meat near where the cow is raised, yet deliver it around the country. They even monitor weather at their customers’ various locations so that their algorithms can determine the proper amount of ice needed to keep the meat from spoiling on any doorstep.

Crowd Cow’s combination of small connection with farms and large scale distribution is partly what attracted investors. Heitzeberg and Lowry actually got a cold investment inquiry email from Kutcher, who grew up in Iowa and had worked as a butcher at one point. Interestingly, this also isn’t the only food-related investment for Kutcher, who is also an investor in the June Oven.

This type of conscientious meat capitalism is catching on. Just north of Seattle-based Crowd Cow is Vancouver, Canada’s Meatme, which also connects meat buyers with local ranchers.

Crowd Cow has also been expanding beyond beef in recent months, adding chicken, pork and seafood (though the seafood page appears to be down as of this writing). And on Memorial Day, the company is offering Wagyu beef from Japan in a special event.

Speaking of events, Lowry will be at The Spoon’s Future of Meat event tonight in Seattle. Look for a wrap up of what he and all our panelists have to say in a post here later this week.

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