EDITOR'S BLOG: Mr. (Doesn't) Know It All

by Lawrence Aylward
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Nick Beste, Man Cave Meats
Nick Beste, owner of Man Cave Meats, says not knowing it all works to the company's advantage.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Here’s why I think Nick Beste, the founder of Man Cave Craft Meats, will be successful for a long time to come. When it comes to the meat and poultry business, he doesn’t think he knows it all.

Beste is 28 years old and running his own company, which is based in Golden Valley, Minn. He has a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Univ. of Minnesota. He began Man Cave during his junior year … at 20 years old. The company incorporated in 2008.

With such success at such an early age, you might think that Beste thinks he knows it all. But that’s hardly the case. In fact, Beste says that not knowing everything works to his and his company’s employees’ advantage.

“Not knowing everything about the meat industry is the biggest asset we have,” Beste states. By that, Beste and other employees aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and ask the company’s co-packers questions like, “Why can’t we do it this way?”

There have been occasions when co-packers have pushed back on Man Cave’s requests, even saying they couldn’t do some things the way Beste wanted them done. “We thought it was interesting that perhaps nobody had challenged them before,” he says.

For instance, Beste requested that Man Cave’s bacon burger be made with 50 percent beef and 50 percent bacon – that is coarse, thick bacon. When the processor said the bacon had to be finely ground, Beste pressed on.

“I said, ‘That’s not what we want. It won’t have the mouthfeel that we want, and people won’t know that it’s bacon,’” Beste says he told the processor.

Beste got his way and has a dang good bacon burger to show for it.

It’s not that Beste and his employees haven’t embraced the industry and tried to learn everything they can about it. Before Man Cave rolled out its line of craft meats, they did their due diligence, knowing they needed to get schooled in the business and nuances of meat and poultry. They toured dozens of USDA-inspected plants in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. They taste-tested products from potential competitors. They talked in depth about flavor profiles and recipes, and studied what other food companies, from ice cream to soda to snack manufacturers, were doing to elevate their categories.

“We started living it every day,” Beste says. “We read everything we could get our hands on and talked to everybody we could.”

Beste expects sales of about $5 million to $8 million this year. Sales in 2014 were just over $1 million. Man Cave’s goal is to achieve $100 million in sales by 2020. It’s a bold target, but being bold is Man Cave’s marching order.

But being bold isn’t about thinking that you know it all.

Read more about Man Cave Meats in the July issue of MEAT+POULTRY.

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