Buyacow.uk and crowdbutching: Exeter beef farmer explains new meat buying concept
PUBLISHED: 11:47 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 28 March 2019
Exeter beef farmer Rob Cotton explains a new concept in meat shopping to AMELIA THURSTON and reveals how he's helping to save the planet
Farming has been in Rob Cotton’s family for generations. Together, he and his brother Matt are responsible for around 450 head of Black Angus cattle on their 1,800-acre farm, based in Mamhead.
Rob is passionate about sustainability and animal welfare, and the ethical practices he’s undertaken have helped to rear some of Devon’s most sought-after, grass-fed cows. In addition to supplying local restaurants, in 2018 he made the decision to partner with UK beef company Buyacow.uk, who have pioneered a new concept in meat buying, dubbed ‘crowdbutching’.
Rob explains: “The crowdbutching concept is simple: customers get to select a cow, online, from the comfort of their sofa, and commit to buying a share (roughly 3%).
“When sufficient shoppers have purchased the remainder of the cow and it is 100% sold, it’s transported to an artisan butcher where the meat is matured for three weeks, to develop its premium texture and flavour, before beautiful cuts of British beef are delivered direct to each customer’s doorstep.
“I wanted people to have a greater understanding of exactly where their meat was reared and what kind of life the cow had. Buyacow.uk offers a unique service that brings lots of strangers together to buy a single cow. It’s an innovative way for local meat-lovers to buy good quality, traceable beef.”
“The crowdbutching concept also ensures nothing is wasted,” adds Rob. “Only when the entire cow has been bought does it go to the butcher. So, unlike the supermarkets and traditional butchers, there’s no unwanted beef to dispose of.
“What’s more, the entire cow is used. Everything is sold, from nose to tail. Even the hide and bones are repurposed and the leather is sold to make bags and shoes - it’s a genuinely sustainable way to buy meat. It doesn’t get more transparent or accountable than this.”
Rob’s cows are pasture-based and stay out on the grass for as much of the year as possible. He doesn’t allow growth-enhancing feed or the use of any hormones, chemicals or preventative antibiotics.
“Our cows enjoy plenty of fresh air and sunshine, as nature intended. They’re very relaxed and possibly the happiest in Devon. That’s why they go on to make great meat.”
Buyacow.uk first launched in the Netherlands in 2014 and in Germany in 2015. Founder Berend te Voortwis decided to introduce the concept to the UK because he discovered there was a high demand for ethical meat, in the wake of various scandals regarding beef.
He says: “The concept is aimed at conscientious carnivores, who would like to know that the animals they eat lived well. The whole process is transparent; customers know the ear tag number of their cow and the name of the farm that it came from.
“Cutting out the supermarket also means customers pay less for premium meat, while helping small-scale farmers earn more! Buying a share of a cow is now as easy as ordering from Amazon!”
Buyacow.uk meat boxes contain everything from juicy sirloin and topside steaks to stir-fry beef and steak burgers. A large premium box costs just £99.95 for approximately 6.7kg of meat. This equates to 27 meals for two at just £3.70 per meal or £1.85 per person.
All meat boxes are freezer-friendly and arrive in fully recyclable and biodegradable wool fibre cartons.
The small meat box is designed to take up half a standard freezer drawer whilst the large, a whole drawer.
“Our vacuum-packed beef can go straight into the freezer. Around 30% of meat is thrown out in British households because it’s left to go off in the fridge. Defrosting as and when you need it helps to solve this problem,” said Berend adding: “We’re 100% committed to reducing meat waste.”
HOW DOES CROWDBUTCHING WORK?
Crowdbutching is a combination of the words crowdfunding and butchering. Instead of buying a specific joint of meat from a supermarket, customers buy and share a whole cow with others.
A cow is only slaughtered once 100% of its meat has been sold; nothing is wasted.
Up to two new cows are added to the Buyacow.uk website each day. When someone purchases a meat box, their cow ‘fills up’ by about 3%. When a cow reaches 100% it becomes fully sold and is transported to an artisan butcher.
Want to know exactly how Buyacow.uk works? Watch the 80-second video buyacow.uk/farmers