All Natural Nevada Food Company is working to bring healthy Nevada meat to the masses.
Taking a page from the locally-grown produce movement, the year-old Reno startup spent the summer selling beef, pork and lamb from northern Nevada farms and ranches at six weekly farmers’ markets in Carson City, Reno and Sparks.
Now, with the summer season coming to a close, the company has launched a year-round subscription service, like the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, model widely used by small farmers to sell fruits, vegetable, eggs and sometimes meat.
And, starting last week Scolari’s grocery stores is now carrying All Natural Nevada Food Company-labeled ground beef made from grass-fed, grass-finished cows raised 60 miles east of Fallon on Alpine Ranch.
Grass-finished is key, says Kyle Huddy, founder and owner of the startup, who once pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and worked in sales and marketing at the Ritz Carlton in Truckee and the Atlantis in Reno.
“A lot of cows roam freely and eat grass their whole lives and then are sold at auction and purchased by large companies and finished on feed lots and grains to get them to a certain weight,” says Huddy.
That grain, often accompanied with steroids and antibiotics, introduces into the cattle what is unhealthy in the finished product, while cradle-to-slaughter cows fed on grass alone produce healthier, tastier meat.
That’s one of many things Huddy found out since getting the idea for his company after an invitation to a family gathering at Mick Casey’s Alpine Ranch.
“We tried some of their beef for dinner and it was so unbelievably good,” says Huddy. “He told me it was grass fed. I started doing my own research and discovered what grass fed meant.”
He also learned there was a market for locally-raised meats that wasn’t being entirely addressed. Some consumers were buying whole cows themselves and freezing them to eat the meat throughout the year. But that was out of reach for a lot of buyers.
“It’s expensive to pay up front for a cow and you may not have a freezer or space for a freezer,” says Huddy. “And you hear horror stories of people buying the cow, then a freezer goes out and they lose a lot of meat.”
Huddy’s inkling there was a bigger market for locally-produced meat was confirmed after working this summer’s farmers’ markets, when his Facebook followers jumped from 75 to 1,600.
Looking for a way to extend the selling season, he introduced the subscription service, which provides 20 to 30 pounds of various cuts of meat on a monthly or bi-monthly basis for between $130 and $200 a month. The company now has more than a dozen subscribers and Huddy expects to reach 100 before the end of the year. Once the service reaches 200 subscribers, he says it will be time to think about opening a retail store.
The subscription is for beef, from cows raised by Alpine Ranch and slaughtered in Fallon at Lahontan Valley Meats and processed in Reno by Ponderosa Meat & Provision Co., Wolf Pack Meats or Sierra Meat & Seafood. Produced in smaller quantity for the farmers’ markets Huddy also sells pork from Sunny Days Farm in Stagecoach and lamb from Albaugh Ranch in Fallon.
For now, Huddy is hoping Scolari’s sales spur a local Wal-Mart and Raley’s, which have shown interest in the past, to carry the company’s ground beef.
Local restaurants have been a tougher sell, he says, due partly to cost, but the company’s ground beef is featured in 775 Gastropub, a Reno eatery committed to locally-grown foods.
But Huddy is rarely deterred.
“You just go at it full steam,” he says. “It’s good for everybody to do something they believe in. If you do something you love, it’s not work.”