In the nearly 10 years since it launched as a whole animal butchery out of a storefront in East Nashville, the founders of Porter Road have wanted to herd America’s meat industry down a new path.
Now the company has $10 million in financing from investors including L37 Ventures, River Park Ventures, Middleland, FJ Labs, Kelvin Beachum along with previous investors MAX Ventures, Tribeca Venture Partners and Slow Ventures to bring that mission to a broader swath of the country.
Since the company bought its own slaughterhouse back in 2015 and expanded to e-commerce in 2018 it has been shipping its selections of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and sausages from local farms to tables across the U.S.
The new money will be used to scale the company’s sustainable agriculture and its pasture-raised meat for the direct-to-consumer business, its shop in Nashville and for wholesale distribution to restaurants around the country.
It’s going to expand its operations in Princeton, Kentucky with a new USDA processing facility that’s 4.5 times larger to meet new demand. That move will create 80 new jobs in the small town and is part of a broader agricultural renaissance in Kentucky.
“It’s easy to back founders who are as comfortable on the manufacturing line as they are in the boardroom, and who see the world differently and have the deep domain expertise to execute on that vision,” said L37 Partner Randall Ussery in a statement. “They have spent years perfecting the Porter Road way, which no company nor incumbent can replicate overnight. They are a category killer in the meat industry and have built a moat around their brand.”
One indication of the ways in which Porter Road differs from its larger competitors is in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic at its facilities.
Due to its limited production schedule and measures like staggered break times, mask requirements and social distancing rules, the company was able to avoid having any outbreaks at its facilities, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Chris Carter. “We had a handful of people who got sick, but [COVID-19] didn’t spread in Princeton,” said Carter.
Despite the push for more plant-based diets, Carter says that his company’s focus on pasture-raised animals and whole animal butchery should appeal to folks who care about sustainable production. “We care about our farmers and we care about the way our animals are raised,” said Carter. “That’s the whole point of what we’re doing … Porter Road is about animal utilization. It’s about honoring the life of an animal so we find an outlet for every single piece.”
Porter Road is expanding its product line into cooking tallow and fats, and cross-cut bones for bone marrow dishes, Carter said.
“The food system is broken and in need of a substantial change. Today’s consumer is demanding a deeper level of connection to their food and can see past misleading labels and buzzwords,” said Carter, in a statement. “We are delivering trust, transparency and flavor so no one has to compromise, all while supporting our farmers.”