Who’s up for splitting a cow? Yes, we do mean splitting a cow. If you have wellness-conscious carnivores in your circle of friends, you just might see this question popping up in your social media feeds along with another phrase: the Cow Pool. Launched late last fall by the Minneapolis-based Grass Fed Cattle Co., the Cow Pool is a web app that helps groups of friends and family organize purchasing grass-fed beef—by the cow. After years of the beef industry dealing with yuck-filled controversies—E. coli in frozen burgers, pink slime, among others—the market for grass-fed beef is outpacing its industrial-produced sibling found in tubes and trays in the meat section.
“People want protein that’s clean and honestly grown,” says Abby Andrusko. She and her husband, Marcus, founded the Grass Fed Cattle Co. in 2008. The company developed a set of animal diet and welfare guidelines, and works with farmers who follow that protocol. But savvy shoppers know that the best price per pound for grass-fed beef is usually found by purchasing a whole cow, which hasn’t been an easy process. It means identifying a farmer, making sure their quality standards meet your expectations, finding a group to share the meat (sold by “take-home weight”) and then driving to pick up your share. The hassle is often glossed over and the process “overly romanticized,” Andrusko says.
The Cow Pool is meant to bring the romance back to cow portioning. Since the Andruskos already maintain relationships with quality cattle farmers, consumers just need to set up a Cow Pool, invite friends to join with a link and select if they want an eighth-, quarter- or half-cow. Once a full cow has been claimed, credit cards are charged and buyers pick a time to receive their share at Grass Fed’s 50th & France offices, where there’s no risk of stepping in hay.
The price, no matter how much cow you get, comes to $8.50 per pound. That might seem steep, but each share comes with soup bones, ribs, several cuts of steak and, yes, the liver.
On any given day, Andrusko says three to six cow pools are active. The company is exploring other pooling options, including a pool for shares of pastured pork and an eighth of a cow share that ships in smaller amounts for urban dwellers without much freezer space.