Sustainable partnership

Originally published in Meat+Poultry Magazine
By Chris Crawford
09.06.2018


Other meat companies could learn and benefit by following the lead of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ButcherBox. The meal kit company recently forged a sustainability-focused partnership to demonstrate its commitment to the environment.

On May 30, the meat delivery service for grass-fed beef, free-range, organic chicken and heritage-breed pork products announced it had collaborated with Livermore, California-based Vericool to use its coolers made from sustainable, compostable materials for shipments to customers.

ButcherBox’s Western region customers began receiving meat deliveries in Vericool’s environmentally safe Vericooler I in May.

“At ButcherBox, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality product to our customers – that begins with raising animals humanely, and it ends with shipping products out in packaging materials that are biodegradable or recyclable,” says Mike Salguero, founder and CEO of ButcherBox. “Vericoolers work and they are sustainable, keeping our products cold from packaging to the moment that our customers open up their ButcherBox.”

Salguero says the partnership with Vericool “gives us the opportunity to ship reliably in an eco-friendly, cost-friendly manner. It helps bolster ButcherBox in standing for brand quality, convenience, value and trust. We are excited about the partnership and seeing what works best.”

Darrell Jobe, CEO of Vericool, agrees, saying, “It means a lot to partner with ButcherBox, knowing they felt we were the most cost-effective, high-performing and environmentally responsible option.

“Vericoolers are the only cost-effective, environmentally friendly and high-performing thermal packaging solution on the market today,” Jobe adds. “Our packaging provides ButcherBox with the affordable, first-class and sustainable packaging they need to safely deliver their product to their conscientious customers.”

Starting out
ButcherBox was founded in 2015 after crowdfunding about $215,000 during a Kickstarter campaign, Salguero says.

He describes ButcherBox as “the neighborhood butcher for modern America,” saying that for less than $6 per meal, customers can use the service to get sustainable, Certified Humane meats that are raised by independent US family farms delivered to their doorstep in environmentally friendly packaging.

“We ship 10 to 12 lbs. of meat and extras monthly to subscribers,” Salguero says. “Operationally, getting the package to customers frozen and in a cost-effective way is incredibly important to us.”

ButcherBox first shipped its meats in expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam packaging (similar to Styrofoam), which is bad for the environment because EPS is not biodegradeable or easy to recycle.

A couple months later, the company tried another “green” packaging option but Salguero says the product didn’t perform to ButcherBox’s standards.

Since May, ButcherBox has been happy with how the Vericoolers it’s using are performing, while limiting costs.

ButcherBox meats are frozen fresh and then shipped with dry ice in Vericooler I containers.

As for Vericool’s history, Jobe says it also happened to be founded in 2015 and started manufacturing in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“We have a great, green technology using starch-based products,” he says. “There had been a lack of cost-effective, sustainable coolers for the meat industry and we are prepared to fill that niche.”

The Vericooler I that ButcherBox is using has compostable insulation that meets US ASTM D6400 and Home Compost standards. When the compostable insulation pillow is removed, the Vericooler can then be placed in curbside recycling, where available.

Jobe says that while Vericoolers perform at the same level as EPS coolers and for the same cost, the meat industry still has not yet adopted the more sustainable technology widely.

Sustainable production
Jobe says sustainability is in Vericool’s DNA. He urges meat manufacturers that are interested in minimizing their impact on the environment to use sustainable packaging like Vericoolers, but also consider examining their production lines to maximize yields while limiting waste.

For example, while using Vericoolers, ButcherBox avoids sending 20 to 50 truckloads of EPS packaging each month to the landfill.

“The materials we use break down, so wildlife isn’t exposed to it like with EPS, which mimics food for marine life and mammals,” Jobe says.

Always recycle and understand the materials you use in production, Jobe adds. “Do your research and try to take as much out of the landfill that you can.”

Salguero says ButcherBox has been considering getting B Corporation certified, which means the company meets standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and is legally accountable to balance profits with purpose.

“The idea is being a company that is doing good in the world with its employees, environment, water use, etc.,” he says.

Additionally, Salguero says meat manufacturers can look to reduce plastics in their packaging and examine energy and water policies in their plants.

“We are active with suppliers to make sure everyone is on the forefront of what’s possible, while limiting overall costs – it’s a fine balance,” he says.

What’s next?
Vericool has major plans for the future of the young company, including the release of its Vericooler Plus — a padded compostable package – in the next 90 days.

In December, Vericool plans to release an innovative molded, plant-fiber ice chest – the Family Vericooler – that can replace a consumer’s traditional EPS Styrofoam cooler to take to picnics and the beach, Jobe says.

“In 2019, we will have a blitz of product lines including pouches, mailers and gel packs with recycled materials to limit the effect on the environment,” he adds. “Cost was a huge crippler in the market, as most customers couldn’t afford to switch from traditional coolers. Now there is a true paradigm shift with our product line and customers are excited.”

ButcherBox has plans of its own, including opening a new Midwest distribution center in Oklahoma City in the third or fourth quarter, Salguero says.

The partnership between ButcherBox and Vericool looks to expand as well, as Salguero says the companies are looking into using Vericoolers for shipments out of both the new Midwest facility and Eastern region distribution center in the near future.

“We are excited to partner with ButcherBox, a company that cares about the environment, has great products that customers love, a fantastic staff and is having amazing growth,” Jobe says.