As a cooperative-style online grass fed meats shop, Tendergrass Farms has only been around for about two and a half years. One of our primary goals over these few short years has been to to create an environment where each and every farmer we partner with is able to raise our pastured chicken, pastured pork, and grass fed beef profitably. Of those three species, pastured chicken is by far the most difficult for our farmers to raise profitably. For the food history buff, this may not be much of a surprise. After all, meat chickens (“broilers”) were not a major part of the American diet until the last 100 years. While grass fed beef and pastured pork have been around for thousands of years, eating chicken on a daily or even weekly basis is a very new concept. George Washington probably ate pastured pork and grass fed beef every day but he likely had chicken only a couple of times of year when someone killed an old egg laying hen that had to be slow-cooked for hours just to make it edible. The fact that chicken is a staple in the American kitchen today is a direct result of concentrated animal feeding operations (poultry confinement houses). In the pastured chicken industry, we’re not taking that meat chicken “back outside” – reality is, it’s never seen the outdoors (historically speaking). This means that from our perspective, the long-term viability of the pasture-based chicken production model is still unproven.
So, to be completely frank, our not quite three year experiment with working with small time family farmers to profitably raise pastured, non-GMO fed, air-chilled chicken to be profitably marketed online has been rocky at best. Yesterday, we sharply increased the prices on our most popular pastured chicken cuts (thighs, breast, whole chickens, and tenders) in order to encourage our customers to try the less popular cuts such as the drumsticks, necks, and wings. Because our farmers raise the entire chicken and we buy the entire chicken from them we have to sell the entire chicken – not just most of it. So, by adjusting our prices we hope to both make possible the future profitability (and therefore viability) of our entire pastured chicken product line and solve the problem of what the meat industry calls “carcass utilization” at the same time. Please rest assured that whatever we do in the future, we will be completely upfront with our customers about exact how our birds are raised – even if they aren’t always raised on pasture as they are today.
Just remember, our pastured chicken drumsticks are mighty tasty and they’re still just $8/pack.
Left to right – David Maren, Tendergrass Farms founder; Mike Burton, Director of SustainFloyd; Larry Bright of Bright Farms; John Vest, Floyd Co. Extension Agent.
Last Sunday evening Tendergrass Farms sponsored a screening of the new documentary ‘American Meat’ at the Floyd Country Store in Floyd, VA. ‘American Meat’ is a pro-farmer documentary that gives a solutions-oriented portrait of the challenges and opportunities that farmers have today in the USA. The film was very well received by the Floyd community and the screening was followed by a lively panel discussion (see photo above). It’s a fantastic film! If you or someone you know might be interested in sponsoring a screening in your own home or community, click here.
Take a moment to watch the trailer:
For a long time, paleo and natural health bloggers all around the country have asked us if we would consider offering them a way to make money by referring customers to Tendergrass Farms. Well, we finally did it! As of last week, we now offer a 10% affiliate payout for any order paced through special affiliate program links. Head over to our affiliate program page on our main site to get the details.
Everybody’s got different dreams, goals, and desires for the upcoming holiday season – and not all of them involve grass fed beef gifts. But let’s say that yours is to convert your poor, skinny, wayward, vegetarian grandmother to carnivore-ism. This is the basic how-to for the easiest and most effective way to achieve that goal. (Tip: This also works for wayward vegetarian mothers-in-law or wayward vegetarian coworkers.)
In summary, according to my extensive peer-reviewed research on the topic, sending a cooler full of dry aged grass fed beef gifts (steaks, roasts, etc.) to a vegetarian’s doorstep has the effect of converting them to carnivore-ism about 99.974% of the time. Luckily for you, Tendergrass Farms offers a wide variety of grass fed beef steaks, roasts, ground beef and more – all dry aged, vacuum-sealed, and shipped right to your friend, relative, or coworker’s doorstep on dry ice. (We even offer free shipping on orders over $199.)
Step 1.) Find your target vegetarian’s home address and make sure they’re not heading out of town in the next week or so.
Step 2.) Head over to the Tendergrass Farms website and place an order of the tastiest looking grass fed beef cuts you can find. You may want to throw in some pastured pork and pastured chicken with the grass fed beef gifts. Depending on the circumstances, you may even want to place the order under a fictitious name. (We also have grass fed beef gift certificates. Though statistically not quite as affective as sending the meat itself, our grass fed beef gift cards do work most of the time as well.)
Step 3.) Within days, your soon-to-be-redeemed vegetarian target will receive a big cooler of vacuum-sealed frozen grass fed beef cuts on their doorstep. Don’t call them to make sure they got it. If you used a fictitious name, they won’t know who sent it to them. That’s part of the deal. (This helps the odds of them giving in to trying it.)
Step 4.) Wait patiently. The trick to this is that they are now alone, in the privacy of their home, with a cooler full of frozen gourmet grass fed meat. It’s just a matter of time until they give in. First they’ll start drooling, then their hands will begin to tremble, and the rest is history. Soon they’ll be wearing T-shirts that say openly carnivorous things like “Nice to MEAT you!”
Step 5.) Use a social media platform such as Facebook to share a grass fed beef recipe with the target. Watch carefully to see if they like it, unlike it, and then like it again when they think no one will notice. Watch their social media accounts carefully in the days that follow. About 87% of people who are recent converts to carnivore-ism will post pics of bloody rare steaks and juicy hamburgers within 7 days of conversion.
Step 6.) Celebrate that your long lost friend of relative has returned from the dark, protein-deprived, tofu-laden, path of vegetarianism!
Step 7.) (Optional) Repeat steps 1 – 6 as needed with other wayward vegetarians in need of real food. This is how revolutions start. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a Tendergrass Farms order.
Okay, in all seriousness, our grass fed beef is really good. Come on over to our online store at GrassFedBeef.org and take a peek at what we have to offer. Send some grass fed beef to your relatives this Christmas season. We guarantee that your grandma will smile just like mine is smiling in the photo above – or your money back!
**Full disclosure: My grandma, pictured above, is currently a vegetarian. I’ve actually not tried this yet but I’m sure it will work. I promise.
Many of you appreciate not just the quality and taste of our meats but also the underlying philosophy and that we stand for that can be summed up in the three words “Sustaining Family Farms.” I wanted to just take a moment to let you know that here at Tendergrass Farms we get calls from perhaps a dozen farmers every month who express to us that while they love farming, they are unable to find a market that will financially sustain their way of life. We are forced to turn down some farmers who would be great partners simply due our own limitations of demand. We have already sold more than twice as much of our grass fed meats in 2013 as we did in 2012 but even so there are a lot of farmers who could be supported through our online marketplace who currently are not. Here’s an email that we received this morning from one farm family that, with your help, we may be able to partner with at some point in the future:
“Dear Tendergrass Farms,
We operate a grass-based farm in Minnesota with pasture raised cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. Our philosophy matches what I read on your website [...].
My husband and I love raising the animals but are poor at marketing. We’ve put our time and effort into our animals and pasture management and not our facilities and this year our creamery refused to take our cows’ milk based on the rundown nature of our facilities which we recently inherited (long story) even though our quality was good and our field man agreed that our cattle looked good and were healthy. We have read most of Joel Salatin’s earlier works and he has heavily influenced our thinking. Because of this summer’s circumstances we are looking at what direction the Lord would have us go since it was obviously not the direction we thought we were headed. Our sheep numbers have grown so they are a viable income source if we could do a better job of marketing. Several of our egg customers have told us we sell the best tasting eggs they have found (“Grandma, these eggs taste like butter!”, “We decorated our bathroom the color of your eggs because we love them so much (we have a variety including Americaunas), etc.) but we haven’t been able to market them enough to make money. Now we are encouraging our 11 year old daughter to take the egg business over but again we struggle with the marketing. My husband has some great plans also for a mobile milking facility which have been set by the wayside as we scrambled to work through a broken generational partnership with my in-laws. They did not share our philosophies so this seemed to be the Lord’s doing but we’re just not sure of His leading at this point.
Thank you for any suggestions or information you can send our way. Even if you don’t have any suggestions, may God bless your work. I was impressed with your Christian testimony and your philosophy.”
- Vonda S.
Franky, I’d love to be able to email Vonda back and tell her that we could help her find a market for her eggs, dairy, and lamb. For the moment, our demand for those items still isn’t quite high enough but with every purchase you make we get closer to being able to say “yes” to the scores of families that contact us every year. Thank you for your support. Please consider telling your friends about Tendergrass Farms, our online grass fed meats shop, and our vision to sustain family farms – one order at a time!
Me, David Maren, with my Tendergrass tee.
For a long time, we’ve talked about making some really cool T-shirts to give out to our fans. Well, we finally did it. Coming up with a good company to make them for us wasn’t easy but after quite a lot of searching we found an amazing little organic T-shirt company right here in Floyd, VA. The quality of these shirts is outstanding. Just for reference, this little mom and pop shirt shop (called Green Label Organic) makes T’s for REI that retail for $32 each. They’re soft, light, and 100% certified organic.
This is not your average T-shirt:
My wife, Ann Maren.
So, you’re wondering: “How do I get one of these rockin’ sweet Tendergrass T-shirts?” I’ve got good news for you. They’re free! Isn’t that awesome? With any order of $199 or more, we’ll send you a free shirt. Unlike some of our past promos, you don’t need a coupon code to take advantage of this. Just place your order for $199 or more (which will give you free shipping) and when your email receipt appears in your inbox just reply to that email with the following info:
The women’s shirts are “slim fit” so you’ll probably need to size up one size. This means if you’re a woman who typically wears a small you’ll want to get a medium. The men’s sizes are a little bit on the large side you keep that in mind as well. Note that your shirt will ship separately from the rest of your order in order to avoid moisture issues. And, of course, this is on a “while supplies last” basis.
Back with green ink (left), front with green ink (right).
The green ink is just a shade brighter than spring grass.
Back with orange ink (left), front with orange ink (right).
The orange ink is a classic pumpkin color.
Ready to place your order and get your free shirt? Head on over to our main site, GrassFedBeef.org, and load up your cart!
The following story is an illustration of one of many opportunities we’ve had here at Tendergrass Farms to prove to our customers that we really do care about them and their satisfaction with our products and service. If you happen to own or manage a business as well, I’d love to hear your comments.
A middle-aged, extremely health-conscious woman from Newark, NY who had been struggling with adverse reactions to some of the chemicals used in conventional meats products found Tendergrass Farms through a health blog a couple of weeks ago. She placed her first order on the Friday before the 4th of July (about $200 worth of meats). What the customer didn’t know, however, was that on the shipping address page she had mistakenly chosen “New Mexico” instead of “New York” on the drop-down menu of states. The city and zip code were correct but the state was wrong.
The next day, before her first order even shipped out, she placed a second order, this time for about $300 of Tendergrass Farms grass fed meat products. I believe she was just so excited about having finally found a trustworthy and convenient source for natural meats that she felt that she had better stock up before other customers depleted our stock (keeping things in stock is a real challenge for us). The same incorrect shipping address was automatically copied from her first order.
Once an order is placed on our site the file goes to our order packing software at our shipping facility in Nebraska. Our shipping software determines how many days the order will be in transit via FedEx and therefore how many pounds of dry ice must be packed with each order, depending on the ship-to state. In this case the shipping software determined that the order could be shipped via FedEx Ground to arrive in two days in NM from NE and it calculated the proper amount of ice that would be needed for that amount of time in transit. Both orders were shipped on that following Monday with enough dry ice for 2 days transit in order to arrive the day before the 4th.
FedEx, however, realized from the correct zip code and city name that the state (NM) was actually supposed to be NY so the orders were re-routed to New York automatically by FedEx. Typically NY is 3 days transit time from our shipping facility but this particular week was the week of the 4th of July so with the holiday it would take 4 days instead. (FedEx is closed on the 4th of July.) The FedEx transit time maps are very accurate and dependable and while packages may occasionally arrive late, they never arrive early.
On Tuesday morning, after the previous day’s automatic ship notification emails had gone out with tracking numbers for our customers, I got a call from this customer in NY. She said that she was concerned about her $500+ of meat because the estimated delivery date that FedEx was giving her was Friday the 5th and the packages had been shipped on that Monday evening. I pulled up her order in our system and immediately noticed her error. Both of her two large orders had been shipped with enough dry ice for two days transit time and it would be at least 4 days until they arrived at her doorstep.
“Mam,” I said, “If you log into your account on our website and look carefully at this order you’ll notice that your order’s shipping address is to ‘Newark, New Mexico.’ While I realize that this was an input error on your part in the checkout process, our satisfaction guarantee will cover this problem. We’re in the business our making it easy for you to support family farmers through conveniently buying excellent grass fed meats through our website and it appears that the poor design of our site or lack of personal attention to your order resulted in this error so we feel that we need to make this right to you. We shouldn’t have made it possible for our customers to make that mistake by neglecting to use address authentication software during checkout and we should have seen that error on our end anyway. I sincerely apologize for this error on our part. As soon as your order arrives on Friday simply give us a call to confirm that the meat was thawed out upon arrival and we’ll re-ship both of your orders free of charge next week.”
I told her to have a great 4th of July, to relax, and trust that we’d take care of her no matter what. Well, on the fourth, I noticed that she placed a 3rd order, one day before her big boxes of thawed and possibly rotten meat were due to arrive at her house in NY. At the time I didn’t think much of it but the next day I gave her a call to see how everything from her first two orders looked upon arrival. She happily informed me that FedEx had somehow managed to deliver the packaged a day early, Wednesday the 3rd, and that everything was in great shape – fully frozen upon arrival. She thanked me for my concern and my offer to re-ship the meats but assured me that nothing of the sort would be needed. When I called FedEx to find out how this had happened they had no more explanation than I did. Some kind of logistical fluke had resulted in the meat arriving early.
For us here at Tendergrass, as an organization that is committed to customer service, it was a very encouraging experience. It felt, in a very real way, like a test that we had passed. It was a very expensive test that at least this time, for whatever strange reason, hadn’t actually cost us a dime.
Milton Baucom with one of his now abandoned Tyson confinement houses, or CAFO’s, in the background.
When you come up the long driveway onto Milton Baucom’s farm in rural North Carolina one the the first things you notice are 5 gigantic galvanized poultry confinement houses. But if you were to take a moment to peek inside, you’d soon realize that they’re abandoned. If you stopped, turned, and looked a little more closely at the surrounding fields you would start to notice little flocks of pastured chickens pecking around in the grass outside, barely a stone’s throw away from the empty confinement buildings. If you looked a little farther down the field you’d even see that there are now fenced paddocks where the Baucom family’s grass fed cows are out grazing.
For about 20 years Milton Baucom and his family tried to make a living raising conventional poultry for Tyson. By the end, they were raising hundreds of thousands of birds and not even breaking even. Tyson was trying to force them yet again to invest thousands of dollars into the existing massive poultry confinement facilities that would never pay for themselves. The Baucoms knew the time had come to find a better way to feed America and make a living. They soon started experimenting with grass fed beef, pastured chicken, and pastured turkeys.
Since then, they’ve learned a lot. One of the most challenging aspects of grass-based farming is often marketing one’s grass fed meats. The Baucom family tried several different ways of marketing their meats: everything from farmers markets to wholesale accounts and restaurants. They even got a deal with Whole Foods. Some of those marketing methods have been more successful than others. Unfortunately for the Baucoms, Whole Foods required them to spend thousands on dollars of special insurance and farm inspections but didn’t offer them any stable purchasing agreements and paid them much less than what they really needed in order to survive economically in the long run.
Milton and hired hands out tending to chickens grazing not far from an old Tyson confinement house (left).
Grass-based farming is never easy. The Baucom family will no doubt have to continue to be innovative in order to keep their family farm economically sustainable. But this year, for the first time, they know that they will raise about 3,000 chickens that will have a guaranteed market through Tendergrass Farms, representing more than $32,000.00 in sure-fire sales for Milton, his wife Harriet, and their two young children. We’ve worked closely with them in the process of determining what Tendergrass Farms needs to do to ensure the profitability of their family farm, carefully analyzing the costs that are involved in raising each bird. After all, when we say that we’re all about “Sustaining Family Farms,” we really mean it!
For a complete list of the farmers who are supported through Tendergrass Farms click here.