- Poultry company Cooks Venture has raised $12 million in venture funding from AMERRA Capital Management, according to a company press release.
- Launched in March by former Blue Apron COO Matthew Wadiak, the company sells slow-growth heirloom chickens direct-to-consumer as well as through FreshDirect in the Northeast and Golden Gate Meat Company in California.
- The new funding will go towards technology that can improve its regenerative agriculture practices, according to the company, and work with new farmers and agroecologists to improve industry practices.
Cooks Venture is entering a growing market of online companies offering premium meats. ButcherBox, Crowd Cow, Moink, Hickory Nut Gap Meats, Meatme, Porter Road, Grass Roots Coop and Greensbury are just a few startups hoping to draw consumers away from the supermarket meat counter. Many of these services feature a range of products including grass-fed, organic and wild-caught.
Wadiak hopes to add new meat offerings, including beef and pork, to the same facilities that are raising its chickens, thus creating a closed-loop farming system that is more environmentally friendly than traditional practices. The company currently maintains a growing facility in Arkansas where it raises the chickens in large-scale stationary houses with access to the outdoors and two processing facilities. With the new injection of capital, Cooks plans to upgrade its 800-acre poultry processing facility to handle 700,000 birds per week.
The company launched in March, offering its heirloom chickens for $3.99 per pound. Shortly after, it announced a partnership with NYC-based food delivery service FreshDirect. Cooks also forged a partnership with Golden Gate Meat Company in Northern California, which makes the chickens available to food retailers and restaurants in the region.
Cooks Venture describes itself as committed to regenerative agriculture and a truly transparent supply chain, with the purpose of developing the best slow-growth, heirloom chickens available in the U.S. with a focus on animal welfare. It has proprietary poultry genetics and crop science technologies that it's developed in-house and through acquisition.
"Our goal is to use crop science and state-of-the-art technology to build regenerative processes and change our current food system while mitigating climate change," Wadiak said in the press release. "We're starting with the most impactful and prolifically eaten food in the world – poultry."
But the company been criticized for its use of the label claim pasture-raised. According to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, Cooks Venture's dependence on large-scale stationery grow houses with access to the outdoors is not a truly pasture-raised system. In their view, pastured poultry is produced by rotating birds to fresh pasture each day while allowing previously grazed pasture time to rest and regrow. There is no formal legal definition of the term pasture-raised, making the debate even more contentious.