“In my conversations with my clientele on the East Coast, I understood that the chasm between the average American consumer and how their food is produced was much wider than I originally thought,” Raudsepp explains. “In the sense of the beef industry and my family’s livelihood, that really got me fired up.
“I do care about the beef industry, and I care about the families who work so hard to raise it, but oftentimes don’t have a seat at the table when the media decides to hijack the voice of the industry,” she says.
Raudsepp is the founder of Boston-based Honest Beef Co., an online business that enables consumers to buy cuts of Angus beef directly from the ranchers that raise the cattle. Currently, the cattle sourced for Honest Beef customers are raised and processed at a federally inspected facility in Nebraska, and consumers can buy shares of animals via honestbeefco.com. For example, the Butcher’s Share includes a hangar steak; a 3.5-lb. round roast; three 4-oz. round steaks; two 1/4 shank cross cut and 2 lbs. of single-animal ground beef for about $150. Honest Beef Co. also offers Brisket Shares, Bone Marrow Shares and a Ribs & Steak Share, among other combinations. Honest Beef doesn’t purchase an animal until a majority of the shares are purchased.
Raudsepp says she launched Honest Beef Co. because she found herself constantly defending the beef industry. But she doesn’t blame consumers, who often have a different understanding of food production. “I would be disconnected too if I was born and raised [in Boston],” she says. “So, it’s good for me to be in Boston right now because it allows me to understand why people care about what they care about and how to market to them; and what issues need to be addressed and how to build trust.”
Beef cattle education
Even with her background in the cattle industry, Raudsepp says she knew very little about the feedlot, packing, distribution and the retail side of the industry before starting Honest Beef Co.
“That was eye opening,” she recalls. “I think the conventional supply chain is so, so efficient, but because it’s long [and] there’s so much to it that it would be hard for anybody to know a lot about every single piece of it.
“So, even though my background is in cattle – not even the commercial side; we’re at the seedstock level even before the commercial beef production – there’s been a really big learning curve. I’m appreciative of all the people that I’ve cold-called and asked if I could just talk to them for five minutes to try to learn more,” she says, laughing.
Raudsepp is the only person working at Honest Beef Co. full-time – as president, CEO, janitor, marketer and any other duty that needs doing. But she says she is grateful for all of the helping hands. “I’m a big fan of the adage ‘it takes a village,’” she says.
Raudsepp and her husband financed business expenses such as start-up costs and marketing. She also has a network of Nebraska cattle ranchers that agreed to be guinea pigs and sell their beef through Honest Beef Co. “They’re really great to work with; I’m really appreciative to them for helping me to take this risk,” Raudsepp says.
“I also have great trust in my processor in Nebraska and my shipping department in Nebraska,” she adds. “They’re the ‘meat and potatoes’ of this whole thing.”