By JAMIE SEARS RAWLINGS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s a new level of optimism on Kentucky’s Rittenberry Farms, according to producer Joey Rittenberry.
Growing beef and pork for Nashville-based Porter Road, Rittenberry says, is a much different relationship than meat companies he has worked with in the past.
“In past experiences, the way the pricing structure was, even though there was a premium factor back then, you still never knew what you were going to get,” he recalls.
“With Porter Road, they believe in taking care of me, so, therefore, I believe in taking care of them. It’s very nice dealing with people who understand that what we do takes a lot of effort, a lot of time above and beyond what the normal practices are, so they reward us for that. They expect me to raise a certain product for them and, in return, they pay me very well.”
The “certain product” that Rittenberry produces for Porter Road is what Co-Founder James Peisker believes paves the path to overwhelming change for the meat industry.
“The number one, main objective of Porter Road is to deliver life-changing meat while having a positive effect on the environment, the animals and our consumers,” Peisker says.
“What we try to do is work hand-in-hand with small, family producers to create a system that is going to be beneficial for the land that they work on, the animals that they raise and everybody involved along the way.”
Spoken like a true butcher, Peisker believes the vertically integrated nature of their business ensures that everyone in the process is taken care of.
“We do things a little more old-fashioned with a modern twist to be able to really make sure that everyone is getting the proper cut,” he says. “We make sure we aren’t pinching the farmers, our butchers or getting one over on our consumer.”
“We understand that it all starts with them having the passionate care for a quality product which gives us the quality product in the end result.”
For nearly a decade, Porter Road has cultivated a near-cult following from their butcher shop in East Nashville, Tenn., where customers visit for a chance to experience a true local butcher shop like their grandparents had, or to shop for meat grown with no antibiotics, no hormones and no confinement, or to simply find good meat.
Two years ago, a holiday surplus gave the pair of owners a new idea—take their “local butcher shop” online, a move that was welcomed by $3.7 million in capital raised in two rounds.
“We always ran a decently successful, small, ma and pop butcher shop and slaughter facility,” Peisker says. “This gave us the opportunity change the world.”
Prior to launching online, the company saw $2.3 million in sales. In May 2018, the company reports that their new website drove nearly half of their sales of beef, pork and chicken, with average single orders valuing more than $100.
Company officials know they aren’t the only vendors of online meat, but they remain confident in their philosophy and their product.
“For us, the way that I look at it, there are people out there who are looking for a small hometown butcher, and we provide that online for them,” says Sky Eisenhauer, Porter Road shipping supervisor in the company’s slaughter facility in Princeton, Ky.
“Yes, there are other people out there who do that, but do they do it as well as we do? Do they have the aged meat that we have and do they have the process that we have to get the best meat for them? I don’t think they do. I think we have the best.”
Rittenberry shares the confidence, so much so that he’s shifting his entire 5,000+ acre operation, with his animals as the focus.
“Last year, I planted 470 acres of non-GMO corn and I’m going to seed 100 percent of that to the animals on my farm,” he says.
“My goal is that everything I grow on the farm, stays on the farm and leaves on a hoof.”