BetterFed Beef is an experiment,” says Max Winders, co-founder of the startup venture striving “to bring the best beef into the world” and sell it directly to consumers online; an idea that is certainly revolutionary. For more than 100 years, the American meatpacking industry has been dominated by an oligopoly of four companies that now process more than 85% of beef in the country. BetterFed Beef sidesteps that “red ocean of traditionally processed beef” says Max, in order to produce the highest quality beef while simultaneously creating a sustainable model for generations to come.
BetterFed Beef was created by Max Winders and Dr. Tom Peters, both more than 30-year veterans of the agriculture industry, in response to several frustrations within that industry. The first was, “How do you get premium value for a premium product because the marketplace is distorted to such a level that it isn’t possible?” says Max. The second was an inability to “communicate directly with the consumer,” due to the sheer distance between most people and the food they eat. Lastly, Max, Tom, and the families that raise these cattle wanted to “build a business where they all share ownership in it,” says Max.
These frustrations, coupled with growing trends in online shopping and interest in food, especially sustainable meat, led to the creation of BetterFed Beef, a direct-to-consumer beef business that ships their specialty beef directly to homes across the US. The company is comprised of 17 independent, cattle-producing families across the Midwest who specialize in producing premium Certified ONYA® beef. Certified ONYA® is an internal standard that guides both how cattle are raised as well as for tenderness of the beef itself. The tenderness of Certified ONYA® beef was recently compared in a university study against that of American Wagyu beef. “Sure enough, our beef was found to be just as tender, at a fraction of the price,” says Max.
The term ‘onya’ harkens back to Max’s roots in New Zealand. “It’s an affectionate word of encouragement and recognition,” says Max, shortened from the phrase “good on’ya.” “We created the Certified ONYA® brand because we want to educate the consumer under our own registered trademark that this brand is something special, it’s distinctly different, distinctly better, and you can trust it,” says Max. To create a ‘distinctly better’ product, BetterFed Beef relies on the high standards of the “right genetics, right nutrition, right environment, and the right management” for each of their farms and each animal.
Despite breaking from the traditional marketing channels of the large meat packer, Max sees the unique value in the critical role the giant meat packers play. “They serve a tremendous purpose and they’re super-efficient at what they do in processing beef and distributing it to supermarkets and wholesalers across the country. However, as a consequence of such massive packer consolidation, there is very little price competition in the market when it comes to purchasing beef from ranchers. Because of their size, there’s also very little room for niche quality products or anything different to emerge,” says Max.
And therein lies the experiment of BetterFed Beef, and what Max calls “creating a blue ocean where we can tell our story and deliver our differentiated product directly to consumers and build trust. We see building a brand and relationship directly with the customer, based on trust and transparency, as the only future for cattlemen who want to leave the commodity market.”
At the heart of BetterFed Beef’s authenticity are the cattle-producing families featured prominently on BetterFedBeef.com. Each family has several generations of experience in raising cattle, and they love what they do, with younger generations eager to continue their family’s farming legacy. “These families have children and grandchildren, and that’s really at the heart of it all,” says Max. “The ultimate measure of sustainability is whether or not the next generation can have a viable life producing food on this farm.”
That family focus shifts BetterFed Beef to look to the future of meat packing, agriculture, and sustainability. “One of the things we hope is that others could follow and start up as well. That would give us a great sense of accomplishment that other cattlemen families can emulate what we are doing and be successful,” says Max. Since the beginning, BetterFed Beef has worked to “break the paradigm” of how cattle are raised and brought to consumers. It is a stark shift from the century-long history of oligopoly but more personally, it’s about the families. It’s an experiment about creating a business that can be passed down through the generations, and at the end of the day, create a new path for cattle producers into the future.
For more, visit betterfedbeef.com.