San Francisco Startup Reboots, Partners with Meat Producers to Bring Healthy Products Directly to Consumers
April 29, 2014 | Marianne Peters
Naithan Jones started San Francisco-based AgLocal in 2011 with the idea to create a web application linking consumers directly to small-to-medium-sized farmers producing sustainably grown meat. After a brief detour selling meat mostly to chefs and distributors, Jones steered his company back to its original mission, direct-to-consumer sales, and re-launched the website last Wednesday, to achieve that end.
AgLocal “2.0” connects consumers with sustainably grown meats and educate them about the benefits of such products to their health, the animals, and the environment. The smartphone app will not be developed for a while, and the website launch is in a “first phase” for customers along the west coast and regions close by.
Emma Porteus, head of sales for AgLocal, builds partnerships with the meat producers, which are mostly family-owned operations. According to her, AgLocal’s business model allows the farmers retain their independence, but helps them extend their reach.
“We provide marketing for the farmers, opening up a platform for them to have access to new customers and new markets,” says Porteus. “The farmers are able to set fair market prices, and we try to work with them to find a price point.”
In seeking out partners for AgLocal, Porteus looks for independently operated farms that practice environmental stewardship of the land and that raise their animals on pasture without the use of antibiotics.
Farm profiles appear on the website as part of the company’s effort to help consumers trace their products back to a specific producer and become educated about the origin of the food on their plates.
“Consumers still have a lot to learn about sustainably grown meats,” says Porteus. In her opinion, more and more people want transparency, but organically or sustainably grown meat is not always readily available.
“Farmers’ markets are becoming the norm, but many of them do not provide much access to meat,” she says. “We want to help educate people about different grades and qualities of meat, to keep a conversation going about why sustainably grown meat is good for them.”
AgLocal is launching their new website with ten farms on board. The farms provide the meat, which is delivered to a central warehouse, packed, and shipped frozen to customers in one to two days, according to Porteus. Customers are able to order directly through the website, choosing from a list of boxes that each contain a different combination of meat cuts, as well as recipes. The boxes reflect consumers’ lifestyles, including a “Paleo” box, a box for families, and a box for those who love to grill. After the launch begins, customers will have 3 to 5 weeks to sign up. The the first boxes will ship mid-May.
Porteus is enthusiastic about AgLocal’s benefits to its customers.
“We provide massive transparency in that we deliver meat direct from the farmers,” she says. “And there’s also the convenience factor. It’s difficult to find sources for sustainable meat, so we have lowered that barrier to entry. Also, there’s the aspect of community. We trace our all meat back to specific farms, so we are supporting family farms in our region.”
Porteus believes that AgLocal will increase the market for responsibly grown meat.
“I’m so excited by the information we’ll be able to provide to customers,” she says. “There are still so many people who don’t buy sustainably grown meat because it’s not convenient or they don’t understand what it is. We are providing a huge piece of the puzzle, making it easier to purchase, providing more education, and funding the community of producers.”
Fast Company named the company one of its “most innovative companies” for 2014, for “creating the next-generation meat market.”