After Cal Poly college student Peyton Curtis was forced to return home to the family ranch in Ritzville amid the coronavirus pandemic, she saw an opportunity to launch The Herd, a ranch-to-table boxed-beef business.
Curtis, a fourth-generation cattle rancher, discussed the idea of a boxed-beef business with her father, Miles, a few years ago and worked on the logistics of it while attending college. But as the food supply dwindled at grocery stores when COVID-19 took hold in the state, Curtis knew it was the right time to launch the business.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit and all the grocery stores shelves were empty of meat, my dad and I looked at each other and said, ‘We need to do something about that’,” Curtis said.
Miles Curtis invested in a USDA meat processing plant, LimitBid Packing, in Odessa and Peyton Curtis created The Herd website, which went live in June.
The Herd’s concept is simple: Bring premium Angus beef to customers’ doorsteps.
On The Herd’s website, customers can choose from three box sizes and the frequency in which they are delivered. The boxes, which start at $85 and are sold in 10, 15 or 20 pound increments, contain a variety of lean ground beef, steaks, fajita or stew beef and roast. The company ships free to customers in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.
The beef boxes are shipped in Renewliners, a sustainable, temperature-controlled packaging system made from recycled bottles. The boxes also come with a flyer containing recipes and updates about what’s happening on the ranch.
Curtis sold 15 beef boxes on the first day of launching The Herd, and customer demand continues to grow as the company advertises via social media and word-of-mouth.
“Half of those were people we didn’t even know,” Curtis said, referring to customers who purchased boxes on launch day. “People are really digging this new direct-to-customer trend. We are getting customers from everywhere.”
The Herd’s beef product differs from other retailers because every cut of meat can be traced back to the pasture where it was born, giving customers the ability to know exactly where their food comes from, Curtis said.
The family cattle operation, Curtis Cattle Company, is “vertically integrated,” which means they control every aspect of the beef supply chain and have a hand in raising and harvesting cattle. That includes delivering it to the customer without going through commercial packers and chain retail stores.
Curtis, in addition to online sales, is now offering The Herd’s beef boxes at pop-up shops, with the first occurring at the Moses Lake Farmers Market on Saturday. She is also holding another pop-up shop Sunday in Spokane Valley, between Costco and Home Depot on East Sprague Avenue.
Curtis said she’ll be attending Cal Poly via virtual classes in the fall to pursue a degree in animal science, but handling day-to-day operations of The Herd will remain a top priority.
“The straight-to-consumer market is going to become the new thing,” she said. “With The Herd, we are able to provide people with that.”
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