We like that food is traceable and they support local purveyors.

By Michelle Preli
February 25, 2020
Bryan Gardner

Even with the popularity of farmers' markets, not every neighborhood has access to sustainably raised and managed meat and fish. Local and non-processed meats and fresh, traceable, sustainable seafood aren't always available options. But there are businesses that offer home delivery to a larger area. These aim to not only provide quality food but to support local, independent farmers as an economic practice. Ultimately, it's about helping consumers make a connection to the food system in a healthy way for all.  "When we are disconnected from where where our food comes from, that leads to difficult problems—ecological, environmental, political," says Charley Cummings, founder of Walden Local Meat in Massachusetts.

These days, communities and consumers are demanding more. "The farm-to-table and real-food movements have gained significant traction," says Arron Kallenberg, founder and CEO of Wild Alaskan Company. "People expect to know the story behind their food, where it comes from, and how it made it to their plate." Some high-quality, locally-sourced delivery companies offer a la carte shopping and box subscriptions. Others operate along the share model, similar to a CSA, so they can determine all the needs each month and nothing goes to waste. All aim to know their farmer partners, how the meat and fish are raised and sourced, and give the consumer transparent information about what they are buying. "If you know where it comes from, it's a better experience." says Marsh Skeele of Sitka Salmon Shares in Alaska. What should consumers look for when buying from a company that delivers? "Was the meat raised right? Does the seller tell you who raised, where, and how?" advises Joe Heitzeberg, Crowd Cow co-founder and CEO. "Does the seller personally know and meet the producers who raise the meats they sell you?" Information and transparency are key to understanding what you are consuming. Here are some delivery services to consider.

Related: Get to Know Your Farmer, Why a CSA Is a Good Thing

Crowd Cow

"We started Crowd Cow in 2015 because, as meat-lovers raising small children, we wanted far better transparency, higher quality, and more assurances around environmental and animal welfare concerns for the meat that we purchase," says Heitzeberg. "Today, every piece of meat we offer is guaranteed free of growth hormones and unnecessary antibiotics, and has been taste tested by our community (which includes our customers, our staff, and our many chef friends.)"

Following the "know your farmer, eat better meat" ethos, Crowd Cow only sells meats from producers they know and have met personally. You can read about the ranchers and farmers on the website, making it easy to shop by farm as well. The company offers meat, poultry, and seafood. You can shop individual products or purchase a variety of subscription boxes. "We aim to be the one place where people buy all of their meats and seafood—and to offer greater convenience, transparency, quality, and taste than the established retail system," says Heitzeberg. As for delivery, Crowd Cow's products are available in the lower 48 states. Vacuum-sealed, frozen meat is sustainably shipped directly to your door in 100 percent recyclable and compostable packaging.

Walden Local Meat

"The goal is to make sustainable, healthy protein available to people," says Charley Cummings who founded Walden Local Meat in Massachusetts in 2014 to help build a local agriculture system that provides a path to market for farmers raising the highest quality and healthiest meat. They partner with small, industrious farmers in New England and New York who produce 100 percent grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken, pork, and lamb.

Walden Local Meat commits to buying the whole animal, which takes the burden off the farmer and allows them to concentrate on raising the healthiest animals possible. This means animals are raised in outside pastures that are pesticide and herbicide-free, with no antibiotics or hormones. The name of the town and farmer who produced it is printed on the package. Walden Local Meat's community of members receives personalized shipments. They offer a high degree of customization and monthly specials; the company also offers free delivery from Portland, Maine, to central New Jersey. Because the company hand-delivers packages in reusable, insulated bags that they pick up and return, their services are not available nationwide. Wondering where to start? The six to seven pound Custom Share is their most popular item. "The share provides you with a selection each month and people tell us they value a 'Meat Christmas' experience," says Cummings.

Sitka Salmon Shares

Second generation Alaska salmon fisherman Marsh Skeele bought his own boat in 2000. He soon found that once he sold his catch, it disappeared into the global supply chain and he looked for a better way of doing business. He helped launch the buying club, Salmon Shares, in 2011 to connect midwesterners to Alaskan seafood and grew into a larger enterprise, Sitka Salmon Shares. The fish are wild-caught in Alaska and the North Pacific. You won't find any antibiotics or dyes in their seafood. Sitka Salmon Shares is made up of 23 independent, small-boat family fishermen who own shares in the company. This builds a longer-term relationship. When you buy from the Community Supported Fishery (CSF), you are helping to put dollars directly into the pockets of fishing families and fishermen who depend on fishing as a livelihood. Each delivery contains information about the fisherman and the catch so you know where it comes from. Sitka owns their own small processing facility that allows them to flash-freeze fish at the peak of freshness. If you're interested in deliveries, you'll need to sign up for a CFS Share. Every month during fishing season (April through December), you get a box of frozen wild Alaskan seafood, ranging 4.5-5 pounds per month delivered to your door. You can sign up for a minimum of three to a maximum of nine months. The share model allows them to determine how much fish to catch. It also gives the fishermen a farer, more stable price.

Free shipping is available to 48 states, and the company ships in insulated freezer bags with dry ice. They also offset carbon emissions from transit from Alaska to the Midwest, purchasing offsets that go toward financing various verified carbon projects (mostly renewable energy-related). and they donate one percent of revenue back to wild fish conservation. The Premium Sitka Seafood Share is their most popular offering— "It's all the best stuff that Alaska has," says Skeele.

Wild Alaskan Company

Founder and CEO, Arron Kallenberg, is a third-generation salmon fisherman in Alaska. He started Wild Alaskan Company in 2017. All their fish are wild-caught from sustainably-managed fisheries in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. "As an Alaskan, I was lucky enough to grow up eating some of the most delicious, nutrient-dense food on the planet," says Kallenberg. "My objective is to help make the bounty of Alaska easily available and accessible to people all over the country." They offer premium sustainable seafood, in ready-to-cook portions directly to members. "Our goal is to make it easy to eat healthy and elevate people's at-home seafood cooking game. And by doing so increasing the demand for sustainable seafood and decreasing the demand for unsustainable options that currently exists."

Members can choose from three monthly boxes: Wild Salmon Box, Wild White Fish Box, and Wild Combo Box. They also offer a revolving variety of add-ons including wild Alaska pollock, sablefish, weathervane scallops, and cold smoked sockeye salmon. They ship eco-friendly boxes of seafood to all 50 states. Similar to Sitka, their seafood is frozen soon after harvesting. They are committed to sustainability from catch to delivery and their packaging is either recyclable, compostable, or dissolves in water. The Wild Combo Box is the most popular option. "I think our members love this one the most because the variety offers the chance to switch up the menus, flavor profiles, and get more creative and exploratory when cooking seafood," says Kallenberg.

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