Philadelphians Can Now Crowdfund Bucks County Cows

It’s the latest way tech is changing how we consume. This time around, you’ll invest in a local sustainable rancher and get grass-fed beef delivered to your doorstep.

Image courtesy of Megan Brown.

Philadelphia’s sharing economy got way more creative last week with the introduction of Crowd Cow, a startup that promises to deliver fresh beef right to your doorstep, but only after you crowdfund for cuts of a cow online.

Melding crowdfunding tech with the cattle ranching industry might sound a little bizarre at first or even next-generation barbaric, but the startup says its process actually counters industrialized farming by connecting consumers to independent, sustainable farms that provide healthy, high-quality, grass-fed beef.

Here’s how it works: On Crowd Cow’s website, users first learn about a local ranch—everything from who the ranchers are to how they raise their cows is explained in detail. Users then have the opportunity to jump in on an online cow crowdfunding campaign by choosing the cuts of the cow “on the block” that they’d like purchase. Every piece of the cow is up for sale—from its tongue and heart to legs (shank) and shoulder muscles (chuck steak). Depending on the cut, customers can spend anywhere from $10 to $200 for their selections. Once all shares of the cow have been claimed, the cow “tips” and the meat is flash frozen and shipped in vacuum-sealed pouches at a flat rate. If all parts of the cow aren’t sold, customers, whom Crowd Cow calls “steakholders,” won’t be charged. 

“This process creates transparency for people who want to know more about where their food is coming from and creates a connection,” Crowd Cow co-founder Joe Heitzeberg told Philadelphia magazine. “In this country, upwards of 80 percent of all the beef is rolled out through four big corporations through factory farming practices that people are very leery of. We thought there has to be a better way. There are these great ranchers, and we just needed to create the platform that connects them.”

Serving customers in the Philadelphia region and all across the East Coast, as Crowd Cow expands out of Seattle, is 26-year-old Megan Brown, a local rancher and her husband who run Tussock Sedge Farm in Bucks County. The farm has 550 preserved acres of land, and 350 head of Red Angus cattle all born and raised onsite, Brown tells me, adding that she’s ready to grow her business with Crowd Cow. The current operation is humble, she said, with just three small chest freezers and the same cycle of loyal customers who come in to shop mostly from Bucks and Montgomery counties and New Jersey, too.

Rancher Megan Brown and her husband run Tussock Sedge Farm, which will supply beef for East Coast Crowd Cow customers.

“E-commerce is the go-to now because millennials don’t want to have to go out and shop,” she said, “We want things brought right to our doorstep and now we can order grass fed and finished beef right from our phones.”

Brown says she’s ready to meet the demand of the East Coast waiting list that’s been growing since the startup launched less than two years ago in 2015. They’ve raised $2 million in venture capital funding and generated more than $1 million in sales.

“We want what we’re providing to be an option for more consumers,” Brown said. “As sustainable farmers, our mission matches Crowd Cow’s. More people should feel connected to what they’re eating, knowing that we’re not using herbicides, pesticides, added growth hormones or antibiotics.”

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