Fed & Fit

Ep. 138: The ButcherBox Story with Founder, Mike Salguero

On today's episode, I'm chatting with Mike Salguero, owner and founder of ButcherBox, about why grass-fed/pastured matters, some of the biggest misconceptions regarding grass-fed beef, quality standards ButcherBox employs, and the best ways to order a box.

We're back with our 138th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 138 Sponsors

  • ButcherBox – for $15 off + free bacon (!!) with your order
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Episode 138 Links

  • Order your first ButcherBox by clicking HERE!

Episode 138 Transcription

Today’s show is brought to you by Real Life Baby! Real Life Baby is a fabulous online resource where you will find a variety of tips on baby and toddler well-being in addition to the most thoughtfully sourced baby gear eco shop. Real Life Baby is a great resource for parents looking to surround their little ones with the safest, most nurturing materials available.

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. My name is Cassy Joy Garcia; I am your host. I am so stinking excited about today’s episode. I have the distinct privilege of introducing you to the founder of one of my favorite; man, I just love what this company is up to. They’ve been a partner of mine for a while over here on the blog. I’m really excited for you guys to hear their story.

Tell you a little bit of back story, and then I’m going to let him tell you in his own words Butcher Box. That’s who we invited on the show today. Founder, Mike Salguero ended up in someone’s living room picking out his very own $400 pile of meat from a cow share. Not just any cow share, either. 100% grass-fed cow. He was instantly hooked on the pure, natural taste, and was thrilled to discover the health advantages of grass-fed beef that they have over any other kind of ordinary grain-fed beef.

Mike learned that not everyone has access to grass-fed beef, or their exposure is limited to products, like just ground beef. Currently only 1% of the total beef consumed in the United States is 100% grass-fed. And their goal over at Butcher Box is to make grass-fed beef; now and heritage breed pork and organic chicken, more accessible than ever. Butcher Box delivers 100% grass-fed beef, free-range, organic chicken, and heritage breed pork directly to your door. It comes directly to my door every month. And you can think of them as the neighborhood butcher for modern America. Welcome to the show, Mike!

Mike Salguero: Thanks so much for having me.

Cassy Joy: Oh my goodness, thank you for coming on. I really am geeking out. I’ve got some good questions for you. I know that grass-fed beef; it is a hot topic. And as people go into the New Year ready to really commit themselves to health and wellness and balance and trying to do better; know better and do better. I know this is coming up in conversations all over the place. So I’m excited for you to share a little bit about yourself.

If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit more about yourself, of course. And then why you ventured to start Butcher Box.

Mike Salguero: Sure, yeah. So I’m here in Boston, Massachusetts. Our office is in Cambridge in Harvard Square. And I’ve been working on this for two years. Before this, I ran a company called custommade.com. and Custom Made was a market place that connected people that make things custom. So, mostly jewelry and furniture. It connected those individual makers with consumers.

It’s funny; during that whole time one of the stories I would tell is the story of a happy cow. And I would say, people want to know the story of what they’re purchasing. They want to know that things were treated in an ethical way. And that was always my way of selling furniture.

But while I was working at the company, my wife and I were trying to clean up our diets. So we started with a Whole30 and did some elimination diets. And we’re really cognizant of what we’re eating and how it made us feel. Trying to just eat better and live better. And every book we read was saying; go find grass-fed beef. Go eat grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is way better. And it frankly was something I had never even thought about. I didn’t even know there was a difference.

But I started looking into it. And this is kind of what I do; I just geek out on a topic. So I just looked into everything about grass-fed beef. Where could I find grass-fed beef, and how would I find grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is hard to find up in New England because of the winter and all this stuff.

So I ended up meeting a farmer in a parking lot. Well, first his son-in-law sold me my share, which is what you were talking about. The $400 worth of meat. And then I ended up buying more and more meat from him over the course of about a year and a half. And the last time I bought a whole cow, and split it up and sold shares to friends of mine who had tried steaks over the past year that I had made them. And somebody said; this would be so much better if it was just delivered to my house every month. And I was like; wow. Hmm. That’s it.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Mike Salguero: I just became obsessed with this idea of; you know, it’s really hard to know what you're eating. It’s hard to know what you're buying at the butcher shop. It’s hard to read labels. Labels are designed to confuse you. Wouldn’t it be cool if we built a company around this idea of back to nature, as we call it. Or animals raised as nature intended. Wouldn’t it be neat if we could push that out to lots of people around the country and give people an option of eating healthier.

So I started trying to put together the pieces. It turned out to be remarkably hard to figure out how to ship a frozen box of meat across country. But I ended up meeting the former head of operations of Omaha Steaks, who opened up some doors, and here we are two years later. I’ve grown quite a bit. Lots and lots of members, representing all 48 states. And yeah, the vision is becoming true, which is super exciting for us. And what we really focus on is; as you said, grass-fed beef, pastured raised pork, organic free-range chicken. And really the animals living as nature intended. So humane standards; just treating animals as they’re living god’s creatures just as well as we are. Trying to figure out ways to make their life better. So, it’s be an awesome journey. Incredibly humbling. Thank you for all the partnership that you’ve had with us. We really appreciate you getting the word out. We’re just dedicated to providing a better and better product for our members.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, absolutely. It is truly my pleasure. You know, when I first came across you guys, and I dug into a little bit more about your company, and what you really set up, and the thought that you put into sourcing and delivery and customer service, it was, in a lot of ways, just an answer to something that I have been looking for. Not only as a personal consumer for a really long time, but to recommend to folks. Because there are so many folks who will go to the grocery store; and we can kind of chat about this a little bit later. But go to the grocery store and say; “Oh, I can’t afford that grass-fed ground beef.” Thinking that that’s all that’s available.

And then on the flip side, how do I find a rancher? You know, that big question mark. How do I find a cow share? And you really met people where they were at. So I’m incredibly thankful for the service you provide. Ok, so before I go off on a gushy tangent, could you tell folks a little bit about what exactly is a Butcher Box, if they’re brand new to hearing about this concept. And then how does the ordering process work?

Mike Salguero: Sure. So, a Butcher Box is, what we’re trying to do is be your monthly source of meat. So instead of going to the butcher, you just get a Butcher Box. The way that our site works is we have a number of different options. There’s beef, beef-chicken, beef-pork, beef-chicken-pork. So you can choose the types of proteins you're going to get. We also have a custom option for people who might want to choose everything that they’re going to be sent. That’s the one that my mom likes.

We basically ship out a box frozen, and what we call pre-portioned. But essentially it’s a portion of meat. So what you do with that is you put it in your freezer, and you pull it out over the course of the month. What we find is by sending you frozen meat; first of all, we can freeze it at the peak of freshness. But also people tend to have a lot less food waste, because they only have to pull out what it is that they’re going to eat. Essentially that comes on an either every month or every other month basis. And we do it for lots of people. We’re just trying to get better and better and provide better and better value for our customers.

Cassy Joy: That’s wonderful. And that is something that I admire, as well, about the organization that you’ve set up, Mike. Is constantly reaching out on “How can we do better?” So I really appreciate it. I love my monthly delivery. My husband is; we’re expecting the birth of our first baby any day now. And his routine is the Butcher Box shows up and he gets to unpack it, and then it’s always fun. Especially the thinly sliced beef is his favorite. So if that shows up, he pulls it out and we figure out something to do with it.

Could you tell folks a little bit about; I know that you said that you geeked out on the topic, and I would love to hear your perspective on this. Why does grass-fed versus conventional matter? In a nutritional nutshell.

Mike Salguero: So I usually go the other route; the other nutshell. Which is just; ok so every cow starts out exactly the same. The first 18 months of a cow’s life is the same, whether it’s grass-fed or corn fed. Essentially, the first 6 months is the cow-calf. So it’s the cow feeding milk off of it’s mother. And then it spends a year eating on pasture.

And then at the 18-month mark; sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little shorter. The majority of the cows; as you said, 99% of them, go to a feed lot. And a feed lot is where they’ll spend 6 months in a confined area, eating as much grain. Meaning generally corn and soy. Getting administered antibiotics so they can stay healthy, so they can grow. And essentially just eating as much as possible to get as fat as possible as quickly as possible.

The cow; it’s stomach was not made to process corn or soy. It was really made to process grass. So it doesn’t do good things for the cow’s body. It inflames its body. It creates toxins and all that stuff ends up in the meat. So our country, since the 50’s really, has focused all of our energy on taking an input; corn. And turning it into protein in a cow. And that is just essentially how everyone grew up eating red meat. Was this cornfed animal.

There is a new movement afoot, which is kind of just taking it back. It’s a new movement, but it’s basically eating how the cow was intended to eat. Which is, instead of doing the feedlot thing, they just live on the land and continue to eat grass. Generally, it takes another year, but it’s just the cow eating grass.

And so nutritionally, there’s definitely increased CLA, there’s increased omegas. There’s a whole bunch of other kind of nutritional aspects. But what makes the most intuitive sense to me, and the thing that I was like; oh, yeah. You follow elimination diet and you take grains out of your diet because it inflames your body and it doesn’t make you feel very good. And then so why are you going to spend time eating beef that consumes that and is not what’s good for their body, either? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So that is the difference between grass-fed and the grain and corn fed.

Just as a watch out; there are a lot of different labels. So a lot of times, companies will say; “grass-fed grain finished.” Which essentially is the exact same thing as a regular cow. It’s kind of marketing speak. So really what you're looking for is 100% grass-fed or grass-fed or grass-finished. Or, what we like more, because of the way the industry is moving; we really focused on pastured raised. Meaning the animal was out on open pasture, and not confined. Because we find confinement; what’s happening is a lot of people are trying to basically use a feedlot infrastructure and feed cows grass in a feedlot setting. Which is not what we think is the future of grass-fed.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. That makes sense. It sounds like; again, another marketing kind of ploy/short cut. Missing the point, I guess. {laughs} That’s a great, great way to put it. Thank you for putting it so succinctly. What do you think is the biggest misconception regarding grass-fed beef?

Mike Salguero: The thing I hear the most is either it’s too expensive, or “Oh I tried grass-fed beef, and it was too tough. I didn’t like it. Or it was too gamey, I didn’t like it.”

And what happened in this country is when grass-fed started kind of becoming a thing, the first thing that companies did for grass-fed is they started using dairy cows. So they started using old cows for grass-fed. Because generally, dairy cows aren’t grown for weight. So they just eat grass.

It’s a completely different taste. It’s more gamey, it’s tougher, and I think a lot of people that I talk to are like; “Oh, I tried grass-fed and I didn’t like it.” It’s like; you should probably try it again. Because I’m not sure that you tried grass-fed beef like we serve grass-fed beef. Which is, you know, a cow that was raised for the meat quality. There’s a dramatic difference. So I would say that’s the biggest misconception.

And the other is price; just that it’s too expensive. I think what’s happened is because it’s hard to find, the places where you can find it charge an arm and a leg. And part of that is because they are essentially taking a risk that they’re going to be able to sell whatever they have in their case. And sometimes the best way to take that risk is to charge more for it. But because it’s kind of rare and scarce, the price has always been higher. And we are doing our part; and I think the industry in general is working to move grass-fed beef further down in terms of price.

Cassy Joy: Right. Move that needle. That makes a lot of sense. We’re voting with our dollars in that regard.

Mike Salguero: That’s right.

Cassy Joy: I think this is a great spot to stop and hear from one of our sponsors.

Today’s episode is brought to you by my friends at Butcher Box! Butcher Box delivers grass-fed, grass finished, pastured beef, chicken, and heritage breed pork to your door each month. The animals are humanely raised, and are never introduced to hormones or antibiotics. I have been a loyal fan and customer of Butcher Box for over a year now, and love my monthly Butcher Box delivery, because it helps me get healthy, nutrient packed protein on my table with ease. To order your own Butcher Box, head to www.ButcherBox.com/fedandfitpodcast where you can get $15 off plus free bacon with your order. Again that’s www.ButcherBox.com/fedandfitpodcast for $15 off and free bacon with your order.

Cassy Joy: Do you mind sharing a little bit about your quality standards there at Butcher Box that you’ve got in place when it comes to choosing where to source your proteins?

Mike Salguero: Yeah, sure. So all of our proteins that you would purchase, whether it’s beef, chicken, pork; or we’re doing some lamb for the holidays. We’re launching salmon pretty soon. So our entire program is first of all animals raised as nature intended. Secondly, antibiotic and hormone free. What we call never, ever. Which essentially, it was never fed an antibiotic or hormone. Thirdly, animal welfare. So some sort of welfare certification; we’re willing to accept a few of them. But that essentially is a third party that goes in and makes sure that the animal is treated with the utmost respect. Which is really important for us.

And then really it becomes a question of; like I said, it breaks down by breed. But for example, for beef we think pastured raised is more important. Because what we’ve seen is people starting to do things like; oh, let’s use a dairy cow. Or let’s use a feed lot. Which is not how nature intended. So we really focus on beef that was pastured raised. Meaning it was out on open pasture.

Pork, you see on our site, if you go to our site, we talk about heritage breed pork. And what that means is essentially over the past 50 years pork, the breed, has changed. And they’ve basically crossed pigs enough so that they can gain weight really rapidly, and also so that it’s a very lean meat. Because the way that pork has been sold in this country is to be “the other white meat.” Rather than what pork tends to be, which is a fatty, delicious marbled meat.

So we use the heritage breeds, which allows it to be a lot fattier, a lot more delicious, a lot more flavorful. And just a way better eating experience. We have people rave about, “Oh man, I’ve had pork chops; you always have to douse them with apple sauce just to get them down to be able to chew them. And this is a totally different product.” Which it is.

And then we spend a lot of time with the collectives that we buy from, or the companies that we buy from, and the individual farmers. Just making sure that their vision of the world and their vision of where they want to see things go aligns with our vision. We really care about the environment, we care about humane treatment, and we know that as we grow and our membership grows, we have a bigger and bigger responsibility to make sure that people are doing the right things throughout the industry.

Cassy Joy: I love that. And if I think about myself as just a consumer buying a Butcher Box, it gives me a lot of peace of mind to know that not only am I voting with my dollars in terms of putting really good, healthy, pastured proteins on my family’s table for the nutritional benefit; right, and really showing the industry that this is a priority to us. But I’m voting with my dollars by companies. By supporting you; which is then a good steward of that. And stewarding essentially that vote further down the line by really making sure that you're working with folks that are doing the right thing. So that’s wonderful. It’s not a little thing. I def salute the effort that goes into it.

Do you have any favorite client success stories? You guys have been; how long ago did you open your doors? And then I’m sure that you’ve heard from folks over the years. But have any stories stuck with you since you started?

Mike Salguero: Yeah, so we started a little over two years ago. We had a Kickstarter campaign in September 2015. So we’re about 2 years and 2 months into this business. The client stories that I like; when you dig into it, we tend to have what I call an awakening moment. Which causes clients, or members, to find us.

So that awakening can come in a lot of different formats. Somebody could have had a heart attack. Somebody could have found out that they were pregnant. Somebody could have done an elimination diet, or saw a documentary, or got a cancer diagnosis. Something happens in their life, where they’re like; oh my god; what kind of meat have I been eating? And let me make a shift in the type of meat that I’m eating. And that’s where we are. That’s where we come in as a solution.

Because often times, a lot of these customers; my favorite types of customers are ones where they are convinced that they need this product, but they can’t find it. It’s not in their store. And I remind our staff, a lot of whom live in Boston. It’s like; yes, we have a Whole Foods down the street. But that’s not true for most people. 40% of our customers live over 10 miles away from a grocery store; and even if they have grass-fed beef, it might just be ground beef. It might not be ribeyes, it might not be briskets. It might not be other really yummy tasty stuff.

So I love the fact that we’re able to help people access an amazing quality product at an affordable price and just serve dinner or lunch or breakfast, whenever you eat this meat. Just be able to serve it to their family and be proud of what they’re eating, and what they’re serving. That’s really neat.

This is kind of maybe overly sappy, but in my house, dinner is the most important meal. I try to be home for dinner every night, and I have three kids and a wonderful wife. Being home, cooking dinner, sitting down, eating dinner, is a ritual, and it’s amazing. And the fact that we as a company are able to provide an awesome eating experience for tens of thousands of families is really cool. It’s really quite amazing to think about when you start thinking about that. How many tables are on tonight. And how cool is that. That’s what keeps me going.

Cassy Joy: That is cool. You're in good company when it comes to being sappy about that stuff! {laughs} It means a lot. I’m a recipe writer, right? Primarily, that’s what I do on the blog. And gosh, it is so neat. It never gets old; someone sends you a photo of a soup that they got to sit down and feed their family. Dinners are really important in my house, as well. So we’re birds of a feather in that regard. So it is definitely not lost on me and the readers. It’s a significant part of our lives, and how we feed our families is really important. So that’s wonderful that you're able to touch lives in that regard.

Just curious; I have a couple more questions for you before I let you go. But what are some of your biggest lessons learned in launching, and ultimately growing Butcher Box?

Mike Salguero: Oof!

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Just a little tiny question {laughing}.

Mike Salguero: Yeah. Well, so I speak on a lot of entrepreneurial podcasts. Not a lot, but a few. So my last company, we raised a ton of money. We went out and raised venture capital, and played that whole game. And when I started this company, I didn’t want to raise any money. And part of that was I didn’t think we needed to, and the other part was I didn’t want someone else starting to push into; well, maybe we can cut this corner. Maybe we should buy from these people; these people seem fine. Rather than just being able to build it ourselves.

And that’s the best decision I have made. We are able to decide with, frankly, our member’s feedback. We are able to decide on the types of people we want to work with and the type of company we want to become. And that’s really neat. Really fun.

I think another lesson learned, and we’re continuing to learn it, is just shipping frozen in the mail is really hard. So we have 100% satisfaction guaranteed. But we know every couple of times a package doesn’t show up, because UPS didn’t drop it off. Or FedEx didn’t drop it off. And when people actually finally get it, it’s thawed. And that’s awful.

So we also know that’s probably the number one concern that people have who order from us. Is like; oh yeah, but what if I’m not home, or what if it thaws? Which is why we’re super aggressive about saying we will just send you another one. We just want you two to love this and we want to be your meat source. But those are a few lessons learned. There’s lots of lessons. I get punched in the face with lessons every day.

Cassy Joy: {laughing} I think that’s just the life of being an entrepreneur. I get it. That’s wonderful. And to echo that; my mom is actually a Butcher Box client. A very happy client. And she has been, I guess for over a whole year now. And I think that she happened to draw that one in 100 straws. The box didn’t show up when it was supposed to, and it was really a shipping problem. It was not yours. It was the other company. And your team took such good care of her. I heard about it a week later. And normally she’s one of those that would call me and say, “I don’t know what happened!” But she’s like, “Nope. They took great care of me. It was fine. Nothing happened. They sent me a box.” {laughs}

Mike Salguero: Yep.

Cassy Joy: So you really do. Ya’ll go above and beyond. And that just makes me even more proud to recommend you to my readers and my listeners. So before we close out, I’d love it if you could share where listeners can learn more about Butcher Box. And if you have any inside tips from your seat on the best way to build a box. If someone is brand new to Butcher Box and looking to get started, what kind of advice would you have for them?

Mike Salguero: Yeah. So I think that our best two products are beef and pork. I think the chicken is great, but it’s like; the chicken is chicken.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. {laughs}

Mike Salguero: And the chicken industry has progressed way further than the beef and pork industry. So I think beef and pork is fantastic. I also think the custom box is great in terms of being able to really choose what you want. But I recommend to my family and friends to go for beef and pork because that’s a great box.

If you're like my mom, and you eat the same thing every month, which is what my mother does. Then the custom box is by far the best option for you. So, that is where you can choose; ok I want two pounds of ground beef, and I want two ribeyes and I want a pork roast and I want stew meat and whatever it is that you're looking for. But it enables you to purchase in a way that you know and is predictable.

The curated option is where we, as the company, makes the decision for you. Which some people love, and I totally recognize that some people don’t. {laughs} Which some people just want the predictability of, here’s exactly what you're going to get. But in the curated box, we are making the choices. We’re including recipes. We’re sending you ways to cook this. We’re getting you all the information you need to make an awesome dish. And we don’t choose things haphazardly. We choose things trying to make your life easy and trying to make an awesome meal and enable you to do that quickly.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. I love it. That’s great. I am one of those people that I love the randomness of the surprise box. {laughs} It keeps me fresh. It keeps my recipe development skills at top speed. And I also have friends who are like your mom; that would prefer to really be able to pick and choose.

Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Do you have anything else you’d like to throw out there before I close this out?

Mike Salguero: Sure. So, as you had said, we thrive on feedback. And we thrive on ideas. And I thrive personally on a direct relationship with our members, or with people who are considering us. My email is ceo@butcherbox.com. And certainly happy to chat with whoever. Answer any questions. Unless you're just trying to sell me something. In which case {laughs}. But yeah, I love talking it up with people who are interested in this movement, and interested in what we’re trying to do.

Cassy Joy: Awesome! That’s great. Well thank you so much for making the time to come out here, share about the Butcher Box story. And thank you, again. Not only as a consumer, as a daughter. You know, I’m thrilled that these proteins are showing up on my mom and dad’s table. And I don’t think they would have otherwise. So from that perspective, thank you. And thank you, also, as a nutrition consultant. I have a really great resource to recommend folks towards. So thank you for all the hard work. I know that it is hard work. And for doing what you do and for always staying vigilant to keep improving.

For everybody else, I will include direct links to Butcher Box. They are offering you guys $15 off plus free bacon. So that is really exciting. If you head over to the blog, click the link there. It will take you right to it. You can also click on; if you're sitting at your computer right now and you're just eager to get started, go to www.ButcherBox.com/fedandfitpodcast . Mike, thank you again for making the time. It’s really been an honor and a pleasure. Everybody else; thanks for dialing in. We’ll be back again next week.

   

2 Responses to “Ep. 138: The ButcherBox Story with Founder, Mike Salguero”

  1. #
    1
    Alyssaposted January 16, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Just listened to this one. Great interview! I have a question. I have been able to find beef in my area that says it’s grass fed, but it doesn’t say anything about how it is finished. In this situation, do you assume it’s not grass finished? I know it’s probably hard to tell. Thanks for your insight!

    • #
      Cassyposted January 17, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      It’s hard to know without chatting with the rancher. I’d ask them directly!

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