Mike Salguero has been trying to eat “as healthy and clean as possible” for years. As a CrossFit devotee, he adopted the paleo diet, which emphasizes whole foods and protein from grass-fed animals, whose meat is considered more flavorful and is usually lower in fat and calories. He says he couldn't always find grass-fed beef at the grocery store, so he started buying quarter- and half-cow shares from a farmer near his home in Boston.
“The benefit is that you find a local farmer who you have a relationship with,” Salguero says. “The challenge is that you have 50 pounds of meat and all these cuts you don’t really know what to do with.”
One of the things he did with it was cook for friends. “Every time, my friends were like, ‘This is awesome.’” He ended up splitting his meat shares and selling them to those friends. In the course of the exchange, one of them turned to him and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could have this delivered to my house every month?”
Salguero was not short on experience, having run the online artisan marketplace CustomMade.com for six-plus years, and he understood the difficulty of safely shipping boxes of carefully sourced, 100 percent grass-fed beef anywhere in the country. “It’s pretty complicated,” he says. So complicated that he “killed the business” … more than once.
On Sept. 8, Salguero and company launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 toward launching a home delivery service for meat. Their take in just one month: $210,203. The largest grouping of backers, about 15 percent of the 1,155 who gave money, were from California — and most of those were centered around Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In Greater Los Angeles, there are only a handful of local meat CSAs, where you lock into paying a farmer for a fixed poundage and pick up your goods at a location such as a farmers market. The farm-to-doorstep meat-subscription model that Salguero is pioneering is somewhat different.
With Salguero's nationwide monthly meat subscription service, called Butcher Box, members pay $129 a month to get between six and 10 pounds of different cuts of beef (this soon will include organic chicken and all-natural, antibiotic-free pork options). The meat is sourced from a collective of grass-fed beef farms across the Midwest and ships out of a facility in Wisconsin that puts everything on dry ice so your meat is still frozen when it arrives. The site says each box should provide between 15 and 20 servings a month at about $7 each. There’s also a surprise meat in every box; in the first shipment it was bacon.
Salguero compares the experience of receiving different cuts of beef to the vegetable CSA model, where getting a rutabaga and learning how to cook it through provided recipes is part of the joy. “It’s about discovery and learning about different cuts and maybe stretching your boundaries more.”