Could craft beef be the answer to saving meat’s image?

The Ethical Butcher is aiming to revolutionise the meat market across retail, restaurants, foodservice and production to offer a sustainable product that could reduce carbon emissions.

16 November 2018
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Disrupting the meat market and delivering carbon-negative meat to households across the UK – those are the two modest goals of The Ethical Butcher. Founded in 2014, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign this week to embark on a new phase of development.

The business, which is the brainchild of Farshad Kazemian, hopes to see the delivery of ethical meat boxes to homes nationwide via what is has dubbed an online ‘craft beef’ service. Kazemain has worked in the meat industry for 15 years, including at Smithfield Market, and wants to implement a type of farming called ‘holistic management’ to make it possible.

Customers who purchase meat from The Ethical Butcher will have their sustainably produced meat delivered to their doorsteps packaged in biodegradable WoolCool: a compostable form of packaging that is a byproduct of rearing sheep.This will be accompanied by tasting notes outlining how and where the meat was raised.

As animals in The Ethical Butcher’s supply chain are 100% grass fed, the meat contains higher levels of vitamins A and E and more omega-3, as well as less omega-6 fatty acids and no hormones or antibiotics, according to the company.

The meat will also be made available to the restaurant industry through the venture’s wholesale arm.

Grab a steak in it

Using Crowdcube, The Ethical Butcher is aiming to raise a minimum of £350,000. In return,it will be giving away almost a fifth of the business equity – and there is also a lifetime reward scheme in place to encourage investments of all sizes.

Kazemain tells Food Spark about 60% of the funding will be used to create purpose-built premises in London comprised of a cold store, butchery plant, packaging facility and a Himalayan salt chamber for aging meat. This will reduce the product’s carbon footprint and make it possible for the firm to sustain a next-day delivery service on all its online orders.

The remainder of the money will be channeled into the creation of The Ethical Butcher brand, its e-commerce store, year one marketing budget and as working capital, he adds.

The wholesale and consumer arms will be run separately.

“During the night, the butchery unit prepares our restaurant orders ready for early morning deliveries. In the morning, we will switch and start preparing, packing and sending our online B2C orders to our customers across the UK,” he explains.

As a sector, the meat industry has come under significant criticism for being unsustainable and unethical due to their processes and practices, acknowledges Kazemain.

“This is why I’m kick-starting a ‘craft beef’ revolution to give consumers the high-quality meat products they desire, whilst ensuring the production process reflects and respects growing concerns surrounding climate change and sustainable food production,” he says.

“I know the meat industry can not only reduce its carbon emissions, but reverse them. The holistic management method of farming produces up to one inch of new soil per year –a process which would take 500 to 1,000 years to occur naturally – and therefore has a decisively positive impact on the planet and the UK’s biodiversity.

“We’re also protecting farmers’ futures, as the demand for sustainable meat is only going to increase and unsustainable farming methods will no longer be accepted.”

Meaty milestones

Ethical meat is an emerging trend with outfits in the US and UK also creating ‘crowdbutchering’ operations where consumers are can buy a share of a cow online from farmers who rear grass-fed and free-range cattle with no hormones.

Bu tThe Ethical Butcher is taking ethical farming beyond the cattle and into climate change. It will work with the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) and their certified agriculturists to help teach a number of farmers each year about holistic management. It will support them in better managing their grasslands in order to offset carbon emissions and work towards the production of carbon-negative meat.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports have found that the holistic management method could sequester substantial amounts of carbon in soils over time, potentially reversing historical soil carbon losses through increased productivity and the rehabilitation of degraded grasslands.

In fact, every new tonne of soil created through the holistic management system removes 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting the effects of climate change and sequestering more greenhouse gases than the animals produce.

Farmers trained in holistic management start with a full bio-diversity audit of their land; to stay certified, its biodiversity has to increase year on year. Only when farms are achieving a set standard of sustainable practices will their meat be sourced for the Ethical Butcher supply chain.

The FAO found that the ethical food and drink industry grew 9.7% in 2017, and between 2016 and 2017 there was a 32% increase in the number of people buying free-range meat and eggs.

Kazemain says the aim for the first few years of the business is to increase product awareness and encourage more farmers to adopt the holistic management method, while increasing the availability of its product.

“We believe that by year three we will then be in the position to provide the same ethical meat, which is currently limited, to the foodservice industry so that restaurants can benefit from it and offer dishes made with sustainable meat,” he comments.

“Through my connections in the industry, we've also had an initial discussion with one of the UK's biggest meat producers to make us an exclusive brand of environmentally friendly PFLA-certified meat, so we can offer our meat to restaurants and the meat trade and they can offer this product to their clients too.”

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