The Chicago Meat Collective (CMC) is offering a Meat Shares program to help Chicago residents access locally and sustainably sourced meat during COVID-19.
When the pandemic hit its first peak in March in Chicago, CMC’s founder McCullough Kelly-Willis was forced to pause the Collective’s hands-on educational classes. But she wanted to find a new way to meet customers’ needs.
“I was thinking a lot about how people feed themselves, especially as I saw the change in people’s shopping habits firsthand,” Kelly-Willis tells Food Tank.
In partnership with the Chicago grocery store Local Foods and local farms such as the La Pryor Farms, CMC worked to build a model that could help small businesses and farmers.
According to Kelly-Willis, she decided to create a meat shares program, which packages sustainably raised and locally sourced meat, at below-retail prices.
“I saw the meat shares [program] as a way to adapt the direct, whole animal purchase model to an urban clientele in the wake of the bottleneck occurring at slaughterhouses,” says Kelly-Willis.
Kristin Boe, co-owner of La Pryor Farms, explains that her business has benefited from the meat shares program and her sales have increased by 25 percent. Boe also appreciates the program because she believes it offers urban consumers a new way to access sustainably sourced meat.
For each meat share, Kelly-Willis offers a different animal for customers, rotating between beef, pork, lamb. After customers place their orders, Kelly-Willis butchers the animal and divides shares evenly among orders, a process that allows her to keep prices affordable, she says. Once orders are ready, customers can pick them up at Local Foods.
Kelly-Willis also adds educational materials with each order to help customers understand the importance of sustainably sourced meat. The guide includes cooking tips, freezing and thawing techniques, and other information about each cut of meat. She tells Food Tank that she hopes it “will help people organize their meat and avoid waste.”
And over the summer, CMC partnered with the local food pantry Fresh Market. CMC began donating local meat on a monthly basis in an effort to extend access to high-quality protein to communities in need.
In the future, Kelly-Willis hopes to make the program even more accessible to the Chicago community with plans to increase the number of pickup sites. “I believe it is currently one of the best deals in the whole city for meat of this quality,” Kelly-Willis tells Food Tank, “and we have every intention of keeping it absolutely as affordable as possible.”
Photo courtesy of Raul Carmona