Buying an animal together on the internet and sharing the meat between them is the idea behind crowdbutching. The founder of Kaufnekuh and a farmer on the advantages and disadvantages of buying sustainable meat with a click.

He knows life on the farm and knows that farming is a job that hardly allows any breaks. Berend te Voortwis grew up on a farm in the Netherlands. Rushed through the fields with his five siblings and was there when a cow was slaughtered once a year. The meat was shared by family, neighbors and friends. Years later he turned crowdbutching into a business and founded Kaufnekuh. It is intended to set a counterpoint to conventional meat production.

Crowdbutching is made up of two terms – crowdfunding and butching. And that’s the point. People buy an animal together and share the meat among themselves. However, they don’t have to lend a hand for this, because companies such as Kaufnekuh (the company’s umbrella brand is now called Grutto), MeinBioRind or EinstückLand take care of the infrastructure. Buying is online, more than a few clicks are not necessary. Once enough people have bought meat, the animal is slaughtered and used from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.

Transparency when buying meat

A few years ago he stood in the supermarket and looked at the meat that was sold there. Apart from the price, te Voortwis also wondered about the lack of transparency. It was rarely noted which farm the meat came from, which farmer raised the animal, and what feed was used. “Most of the time you don’t learn anything about the meat,” he says. That made him think. Why, he wondered, should what his family had been doing for years not be possible on a larger scale?

Berend te Voortwis started with Kaufnekuh. The media echo was great. It quickly became clear that he had hit the nerve of the times. “We realized that customers are ready for this, ready for a change,” he says. That was in 2015. The crowdbutching offer is now also available for pigs, deer and poultry. The main difference to the supermarket: maximum transparency. Through the ear numbers, meat and farmers lose their anonymity. “The customer can really make a choice about breed, age, feed,” says te Voortwis. And the farmers would finally get the appreciation for their work that they deserve. “They don’t just hand their meat to the butcher and disappear into a black box. They are involved to the very end.”

“We pay farmers more”

The meat comes from small, family-run farms. There are no intermediaries. This saves Grutto money, which the company passes on to the farmers. “We pay them more and we don’t change the prices weekly,” explains te Voortwis. Customers get the meat for a meal from a price of 1.78 euros.

One of the farmers is Hans Hübner from Mariaberg, Gammertingen. He runs an organic farm. The farm used to market the animals itself, which didn’t really go smoothly. Hübner looked for alternatives and came across Kaufnekuh. In 2016 he offered the first four Angus cows there. “Every day we cheered on the homepage to see if and how quickly they were sold – that was pretty exciting. One animal was sold within a day and a half. That was great!” he says.

The farm now sells 16 to 20 cows and 40 pigs a year via the platform. It’s worth it, he says. “We are paid fairly and the concept brings the best meat from animals that have been raised humanely to customers who might otherwise buy meat in the supermarket without knowing where it comes from.” In addition, the meat is only part of the animal, but Kaufnekuh uses the whole animal. The hides go to tanners, the bones are processed into glue and the innards are used for high-quality animal feed.

Meat with waiting times

Customers can choose online how big the meat package should be. In some cases, the packages, which contain a mix of different parts from minced meat to steak, can be put together variably. When an animal is 100% sold, it is sent to the Grutto slaughterhouses. Cows, says te Voortwis, are often sold within hours. That corresponds to about 50 meat packages sold. Other animals may take two or three days to sell completely.

For farmers, that means waiting. Hübner also says: “We depend on what the customer buys. From time to time this can happen very quickly and sometimes it takes a little longer”. And customers sometimes have to be patient, especially when it comes to cow meat. Since this has to mature after slaughter, it takes about three weeks from the time you order until you can receive your package. The meat comes in sustainable packaging and is delivered fresh within 24 hours.

“Inspiration for Others”

The cooperation with Kaufnekuh means that Hübner can do what he loves to do: “Concentrate on keeping our animals in a species-appropriate manner.” Crowdbutching encouraged the farmer to invest in a pigsty with more space. “We probably wouldn’t have done it without Kaufnekuh,” he says.

Is crowdbutching a model for the masses? “It’s still a niche product at the moment,” says te Voortwis. But it’s not about getting bigger and bigger. It is important that the concept creates awareness for sustainable meat consumption and is an inspiration for other models. Low prices and excessive meat consumption are no longer acceptable – “the meat industry must become more sustainable and healthier”.