This spring downtown Westport will see the opening of M.EAT Organic Beef and Provisions, an old school meat market with new school fundamentals. Founded by Beto Esteves and Rodrigo Echeverrigaray, the business partners saw the need for a boutique organic meat shop.
I sat down with the two in their Southport offices, eager to learn more about this concept. “There is no one in the US market involved with both the importing and the retailing organic meat, explained Beto. Generally, it’s a process that involves many, the importers, distributors and suppliers. So by the time the organic product hits the shelf the prices are astronomical. We have the unique ability to source meat from Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand, directly from the producers. We decided that we wanted to be able to offer these products in the States. The partners decided to take this concept one step further and have a dedicated retail space specifically designed around these organic meats, a unique concept here in the states. The first of these locations is scheduled to open in Westport at the beginning of June.
The partners have developed a business plan which aims for ten stores in the next five years, with the hopes of opening a second location in Connecticut and third in California. There are also plans to launch this concept internationally where there’s a demand for such, especially in Asia.
Rodrigo explained to me that Uruguay is a big producer of meat. “Ten percent of the overall production is organic and the rest is grass-fed. Uruguay is a tiny country but the quality of the beef is excellent. It’s a much healthier product and the people from Uruguay pride themselves on this.” Rodrigo continued. “Because we are cutting out the middle man we will be able to sell organic meat for less than what US grass-fed beef is sold for.”
As for the shop it will be small. The front will be a boutique, designed to create a welcoming atmosphere. Customers will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee while they buy their beef, or even a glass of wine. “We want to create an experience for our customers. We want them to be able to come in and sit down and read a magazine while they wait. There will also be some organic wines and cheese. The shop won’t be just about the beef, though that will be the primary focus. The butcher will also be on hand to talk about the beef.”
M.EAT will offer a fresh burger bar, where patties will be fully customized. Customers will select the size, contents (they can choose from a variety of organic cheeses and produce to mix inside) as well as lean content. Each burger will be prepared in front of the customer. “The idea behind this is to be able to create something individual for everyone in the family because not everyone eats the same or same size burger,” Beto explained. “We have a machine to test the leanness of the product so if a customer wants a really lean burger, we can make one that is 95.5%lean.”
Rodrigo shared the fact that there’s data that many people aren’t aware of. Organic beef tenderloin is leaner than a chicken breast. MEAT offers a different approach to beef. The beef in Uruguay is healthier and leaner than much of the fish Americans eat every day that is farmed and often filled with harmful preservatives, etc.
Uruguay’s traceability practices are mandatory and one of the strictest and most progressive in the world, ensuring that consumers, and butchers, know exactly where their beef comes from and how it was raised. Every single producer takes part in this traceability system - from the farmer with just two cows to those with 2,000, or even 20,000 head of cattle, and it is paid for entirely by the state. The beef is butchered, packaged, refrigerated, and transported by ship and arrives in the US within 30 days. During the course of importing the maturation process occurs, contributing to the tenderness of the beef.
The most notable difference, it seems, is that here in the states beef goes through feed blocks and are fed corn and hormones whereas in Uruguay the cattle are free to roam in the open air and graze on fresh grass making them truly happy cows. And that meat is still less expensive. Which would you rather have?
M.EAT is owned by Fair Trade, an import company with over 20 years of experience and joint ventures with the most prestigious suppliers of the highest quality beef throughout South America. M.EAT is a member of the Organic Trade Association as well as the Meat Importers Council of America (MICA).
M.EAT Organic Beef & Provisions, 29 Church Lane, Westport, Connecticut