A Cow on Order: Crowdbutching is Making Meat Consumption More Sustainable

‘Buy a cow’: with this campaign, MAKRO Belgium is promoting the sustainable and transparent sale of meat products. The concept follows the ‘crowdbutching’ trend. But what is that and how does it work?

A Cow on Order: Crowdbutching is Making Meat Consumption More Sustainable

Crowdbutching is similar to the idea of crowdfunding – but instead of a group of people participating in one company, they participate in one animal. The principle: customers buy different parts of an animal, for example a cow or a pig. The shares are offered in the form of packages of several kilograms, containing pieces of meat such as steaks, minced meat, roast beef, sausages, stew meat or cut meat. Only after all parts of the animal are sold is it slaughtered.

Consumers receive the meat vacuum-packed in pre-packed portions that can be shared with friends and family or even frozen. The good thing is that no meat is produced that cannot be sold later. So nothing is thrown away. The whole animal, nose-to-tail, is utilised. Parts that cannot be eaten are ideally processed elsewhere; offal is used to make animal feed and bones are used to make glue. 

A 100% traceable product

The principle of crowdbutching promotes the consumption of meat produced regionally and in compliance with animal-welfare standards, and it creates maximum transparency. Each animal is identifiable by its own ear tag, so consumers know exactly where the meat they buy comes from. Of course, the approach also means that you can't take your meat home straight from the store shelf. From order to delivery takes around 2 weeks, sometimes longer – depending on how quickly the whole cow is sold.

On the other hand, local farmers can plan better and earn higher profits. Some farmers offer crowdbutching directly via their own website. There are also platforms such as Grutto through which consumers can order shares in animals. And MAKRO Belgium has already tried crowdbutching for customers with its ‘Buy a Cow’ campaign and received a lot of positive feedback.

Crowdbutching: sharing is caring

The concept for MAKRO Belgium's ‘Buy a Cow’ was born out of the idea of tying in with special childhood memories: ‘In the past, families used to buy a whole cow once a year from the local farmer and share food with other families. We wanted to revive these memories with our campaign,’ says Bart Blomme of MAKRO Belgium. Moreover, crowdbuying, i.e. buying products together in large quantities and sharing them among several consumers, is increasing overall as part of the sustainability mega-trend.

MAKRO Belgium cooperates with a regional farm in the north-east of the country that breeds the local cattle breed White Blue Belgians. This local cooperation allows MAKRO to closely monitor the animals and their health, husbandry and breeding to guarantee customers high quality. At the same time, the animals are not exposed to long transport routes that cause them additional stress. ‘We offer our customers complete transparency. There are no anonymous products with us – we give the animals a “face”,’ says Blomme. For MAKRO Belgium, only animals between 5 and 7 years old are eligible for crowdbutching.

Crowdbutching Meat

Appreciation through holistic utilisation

As part of ‘Buy a Cow’, customers can either order half a cow – that is 180 kilograms of beef from 13 different parts of the animal – or a meat package of 10 kilograms, which corresponds to 6 different pieces of meat. For Blomme, this is a model to follow: ‘At MAKRO, we believe that no animal should be slaughtered, no fish caught and no vegetables harvested to end up in the bin. Crowdbutching is an approach that helps us to value every food, every part of the animal more.’

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