Porter Road: Changing the meat industry by bringing power back to the farmers

By Best of BusinessFOXBusiness

Porter Road butchers: Empowering farmers and disrupting the meat industry

A look at how Porter Road Co-Founders James Peisker and Chris Carter have set themselves up to be the biggest disrupters of the meat industry with their growing Nashville butcher shop.

Forget “Beyond Meat,” James Peisker and Chris Carter the Co-Founders of Porter Road are setting themselves up to be the biggest disrupters of the meat industry as leaders of “a meat conscious production and buying approach.” Peisker and Carter are not avoiding meat, however, they’re treating every point in the process from the animals to the farmers and consumers with respect and dignity.

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Both men’s journey into the meat industry started in the kitchen. Carter went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona while Peisker attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Following culinary school, both Carter and Peisker found themselves in Nashville, Tennessee working in the same restaurant.

They said the farm-to-table restaurant where they worked actively misrepresented where the food it was serving was really coming from. Carter explains that there were items on the menu, for example, extolling that braised greens were coming from a particular farm, but that the greens were, in fact, dropped off from a different place entirely.

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“Whether it’s something as simple as a braised green or as complicated as a chicken breast, if you’re told that’s what it is—that’s what it SHOULD be, and James and I really connected on the power behind that and the truth behind what you’re selling somebody. We’ve never steered off that path from day one.”

Peisker added, “Chris and I connected on knowing where your food comes from, truth in labeling and menus, and really giving a customer what it is, that makes food really special.”

Peisker and Carter opened the doors to Porter Road nearly a decade ago in East Nashville. The duo tells Fox Business that the original idea for Porter Road was that they would be the sole employees; they were going to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day; and, they were going to provide the best local quality fresh meat to their friends, family, and the community of Nashville.

That thinking changed quickly. “When you keep your head down and you keep focused on what's right and never stray off that path, then people notice, and they start to support you and your system and what you believe in, and that's really what happened here,” says Carter.

Peisker continued, “Now we're almost over 50 employees, and as we've grown every month, every year, the quality of our product has only gotten better.”

Carter and Peisker’s culinary backgrounds affords the duo with a unique perspective when it comes to the quality of their product and the meat industry by putting flavor first.

“Chris and I always looked at the meat industry of: how can we make the most delicious product possible?” Peisker explained. “And that led us to going out and meeting farmers and going out to the fields and actually seeing how these animals were raised.”

What the two men say they found, however, was a broken meat industry. Peisker tells Fox Business that “What most people don’t realize is that 99% of the meat that we consume in this country comes from concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), and that means that animals are raised inside and packed into pretty miserable conditions to increase efficiencies.”

Peisker advises to look to other companies and question how it’s possible to get tender loins from 25 different beef to all end up in a single box, and a consumer is none-the-wiser about the practices that goes into his or her meat. The duo explains that Porter Road’s mission centers around quality.

“What our mission is, is to make sure that the quality of these animals’ lives is actually taken into consideration when our farmers work with these animals,” says Peisker.“By giving the animals a much more natural life, they're going to develop a lot better flavor as well, so not only is it better for you, the consumer, because it tastes better, but it's also better for you nutritionally because they live a better life and actually eat a more natural diet.

In addition to that, Carter adds, “it's better for the environment, because you're taking out and breaking a system that is broken.”

The Porter Road co-founders try to bring the power back to the farmers and control the quality of the meat.

“These farmers that are out there really taking care of their land and taking care of the animals, they deserve an outlet, and they deserve a premium for their product,” Peisker explains. Kenneth Drinnon is the owner of KLD Farm, one of the farms that sources its cattle to Porter Road. “Chris and James enable a small farmer like myself to be profitable as opposed to not being able to make any money,” Drinnon explains. “They pay us a premium and James is not bashful about letting us know what he expects, and I spend every day of the year making sure that the product I deliver them is going to be satisfactory.”

Drinnon also told Fox Business that he tries to make sure his cattle have pleasant lives and does everything possible to make sure their life is comfortable until the day of slaughter.

Carter and Peisker have also integrated their entire operation to maintain control of their meats at every step. “What gives us the unique advantages that we are a vertically integrated company, which means that we own the slaughterhouse, the cut facility, and the pack facility,” says Peisker. “It gives us the opportunity to pay the premium to the farmers for the hard work that they do and they deserve to get paid for.” We work with our trusted farmer partners that we have developed relationships with over the past decade and take it from there, says Peisker. “So it's farmer, us, you. That’s it.” Joey Rittenberry is the owner of Rittenberry Farms and has worked with Porter Road for three-and-a-half years. “Our work with Porter Road has allowed us to go from not knowing if you’re going to be able to continue farming to actually making a profit.”

Rittenberry notes that every point in the process of raising their animals is strategic from birth and the way they ween their animals to how they’re raised on specific diets and how the animals are carefully transported. “I don’t even let people unload my calves because I’m very particular about how they’re treated, you really have to do every part of the process correctly and plan it out, but it’s all worth it when you get the final result on your fork.”

Carter and Peisker launched Porterroad.com in February 2018. They hope to spread their message and give consumers a chance to purchase their meat across the United States. “The website gives us an opportunity to get our story out there and actually let people know that they can make a difference by voting with their knowledge,” explains Peisker.

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“By actually having a voice and putting your money where your mouth is, consumers can truly benefit, because you're going to have the best dinner party ever but you're also going to change the world.”

To learn more about Porter Road and its co-founders James Peisker and Chris Carter, watch the full video above.

Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter with Fox News Digital Originals. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyDeCiccio.