When Ethan and I started Crowd Cow a few years ago, we had a simple purpose: to find the best beef possible. For us, and to this day, that means seeking out the very best of small-scale, independent farms who are uncompromising in their dedication to flavor, quality and high ethical standards.
That search led us to dozens of farms across the Pacific Northwest, where an abundance of rain leads to lush pastures and some of the best-tasting grass-fed, grass-finished beef in the country. We discovered the unique flavor profiles offered by different breeds and grasses and we held our first “beef tasting.”
A Crowd Cow "beef tasting" event
On my first trip to the dry, eastern part of the state, I met with a multi-generational family farm and spent the day on horseback moving cattle to fresh pastures across hundreds of acres of open land in the low-lying hills bordering a national forest. They raise Purebred Angus and have been herding them this way for four generations of the family, and in the winter, feed them corn grown next to their farmhouse. I suggested, “if you feed them nothing but grass, you could earn more money, why don’t you do that?” The farmer answered, “well Joe, because grass doesn’t grow out here. I’d have to truck it out over the mountain pass.”
I asked him “Okay, well where is the feedlot then?” and he said, “you’re standing in it.” The result was some of the finest beef I’ve ever had -- better than anything I’d ever experienced in steakhouses or grocery stores -- and raised in complete contrast the commodity beef available everywhere.
Gebbers Cattle, Crowd Cow's first craft grain-finished beef, raised on hundreds of acres of open range land, and finished with grass and corn grown on the farm.
This wasn’t beef that’s bought and sold at auction, carted off to feedlots in the midwest and fed low-cost, high calorie feed in concentrated feedlots -- or fed manufactured grass-pellets so it can be labelled “grass-finished.” This was craft beef.
Our book, Craft Beef
What we realized was that the best beef -- craft beef -- is produced in small batches by producers each with their own unique story, breed, method of raising animals and feed. And the result is a rich tapestry of flavors, the best of which is far better than anything available through the commodity system. And the farmers that produce it aren’t stock art photos. They are real people who care.
Today, Crowd Cow has the most extensive and selective network of independent craft meat producers around the U.S. with more than 100 farmers, encompassing just as many breeds, types of feed and family traditions.
As we expanded the beef we offered, including purebred Kuroge Washu from small breeders in the USA, our customers began asking for that same breed, but from farmers actually in Japan. So I went to Japan, calling on auctioneers in Awaji Island, where over 70% of Kobe Beef is raised, and made friends with farmers. They led me to award-winning producers in Kagoshima and to Olive Wagyu’s founder, Masaki Ishii. I raised a few glasses, sang karaoke, ate a lot of incredible beef and got deep into the beef world in Japan. This past year, Crowd Cow was able to bring Olive Wagyu from Kagawa Prefecture — the world’s rarest beef — to consumers online in America for the first time ever.
Joe from Crowd Cow and the founder of Olive Wagyu, Masaki Ishii, on Shodoshima Island, Kagawa, Japan
Craft meat is not unique to the United States or Japan. Unique varieties of craft meat can be found on the smallest of ranches all around the world, from Vaca Vieja in Spain’s Basque Country to gaucho-raised beef of the Argentine Pampas to Piedmontese beef from the northern tip of Italy and beyond. These high quality, delicious craft meats are often in areas that are hard to reach due to difficult supply chains, local regulations, language barriers, and many other challenges. Scouting out the very best farmers, building relationships with them, and sharing their outstanding craft meats is Crowd Cow’s specialty.
Our mission is to help people discover and access the highest quality craft beef and meats, and to bring people together — farmers and consumers, families and friends. We are proud to shine the spotlight on the best craft meat producers everywhere, and to give people direct access to producers and to the incredible variety and quality that makes up the world of craft meat. And we will explore the farthest reaches of the world to bring the highest quality and best tasting craft meats directly to U.S. customers.