The e-commerce space for buying meat is an underdeveloped market for meat suppliers as just 5% of consumers reported purchasing meat online, according to Mintel.
“The tide is shifting on this one as more people get comfortable ordering food online, and it just makes sense that this trend also grows to include the heart of the American diet, meat,” Porter Road co-founder Chris Carter told FoodNavigator-USA.
Multiple investors have taken note of Porter Road’s mission of creating a more sustainable food system around meat – The online butcher shop recently landed $3.7m in seed funding from investors including Max Ventures, Slow Ventures, BoxGroup, Tribeca Venture Partners, Collaborative Fund, Great Oaks VC, and others.
Porter Road plans to use the funding to expand its operations and deepen its farmer relationships, and continue to provide a platform that encourages an open, honest dialogue about the evolving food ecosystem. Currently, its online business is fulfilling over 1,200 online order per month and growing rapidly, Carter added.
”We are working to educate people on how we have built a better food system that creates healthier, more delicious meats for our customers, delivered right to their door,” he said.
Bringing the butcher-shop experience online
Porter Road began as a brick-and-mortar butcher shop in Nashville, Tennessee, founded by trained chefs and butchers, Chris Carter and James Peisker. To keep up with demand that shop had gained, the pair launched its online shop in February 2018.
Carter emphasized that ordering online through Porter Road is an elevated experience compared to commonplace mail order meat services.
“Mail order meat is nothing new, but in the past the quality was mediocre, and the customer experience worse,” Carter said.
“You were forced to buy bundles of frozen meat delivered in Styrofoam containers from an opaque source. No wonder that style of meat ordering was ‘special occasion only’.”
Porter Road has a completely different approach, according to Carter, and its website reflects that. On its website, users can filter by type of meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, cooking time (under 15 minutes to all day), or cooking gear (grill, crock pot, oven, pan/skillet, or sous vide).
Like visiting a traditional, butcher shop, Porter Road’s site is full of ‘tips and tricks’ and how to store and prepare any given cut of meat.
“We offer a fair a la carte business to our customers, deliver fresh product in bio-degradable packing, all designed to make this a habitual purchase.”
Building a local, trusted source
The foundation of Porter Road’s mission is to transform the online meat buying experience and restore the link between sustainable farms and the end consumer that has been lost in the meat buying experience.
“Prior to the industrialization of our food, a connection between the farmers and the consumers was commonplace. But, as big box stores moved in and local artisans shuttered their shops, that connection was lost,” Carter said.
“We hear from customers that they have lost access to pasture-raised products and that our meat reminds them of the meat ‘from the farm on which they were raised’.”
To achieve this, Porter Road works directly with sustainable local farmers that raise animals under “strict specifications” and “meticulously process the meats” in their own facility in Kentucky before shipping directly to consumers.
All of Porter Road’s member farms must sign an affidavit agreeing to conform to the company’s human livestock program, which requires no added hormones, no antibiotics, no animal by-products ever fed, no waste by-products fed, no GMO fed.
In addition, all livestock must be raised on pasture/woods, never inside or without plenty of room to roam, no crates/cages/or tethers are permitted, and all animals must be treated with the highest standards of animal husbandry, the company added.
As demand for its cuts of meat grows, Porter Road is constantly seeking out new partner farms and other businesses that hinge on sustainable practices, Carter added.
“There are many farmers who share our passion for a more sustainable food system who would prefer to work with someone like Porter Road rather than being forced to cut corners and deal with the price fluctuations within the commodity food system,” he said.