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A New Startup Lets You Buy Shares of a Cow Before It's Butchered

After users have selected the breed, cut, and rancher of their choosing, the cow is butchered, packaged, barcoded, and finally shipped to buyers in cold storage containers.

by Nick Rose
Mar 4 2016, 7:00pm

One of the main criticisms of the modern era of industrialized, plastic-wrapped meat is that it completely detaches consumers from the brutal slaughter endured by millions of cows every year.

But sadly, the bottom line is that most people don't really care where their meat comes from, or how it gets to their plates, which is probably all the better considering that Congress just repealed a labeling law that required retailers to state the country of origin of certain types of meat.

READ: Soon, Americans Won't Know Where Their Meat Is Coming From

But one Seattle startup called CrowdCow is using social media and an innovative business model to combat this trend by letting users select cuts of beef from cows whose faces they can actually see. Each cow is separated into 50 "shares" and is not slaughtered until every share is sold, ensuring maximum freshness and sustainability.

Photo via Flickr user essjay

Photo via Flickr user essjay

In essence, CrowdCow are crowdsourcing entire cows. After users have selected the breed, cut, and rancher of their choosing, the cow is butchered, packaged, barcoded, and finally shipped to buyers in cold storage containers.

"We are literally buying a cow and every share that we portion out came from that animal," CrowdCow co-founder Joe Heitzeberg told KOMO News. "When you go to the grocery store, it's typically mystery meat, you have no idea where it came from, whereas we think it should be marketed, sold and experienced like a microbrew or like wine." In doing so, CrowdCow is lowering overhead costs and putting urban consumers directly in touch with small ranchers.

Heitzeberg claims that it takes roughly 60 purchasers to buy a whole cow, but that it usually only takes a few hours for all shares of the animal to be sold on the company's website. "So you claim your share, rally your friends, tip the cow, and become a steak holder," Heitzeberg said. "The puns are endless."

Happy cows, happy ranchers, and puns. What's not to like?