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Beetnik Foods invests in local ranches to expand production

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Grass-fed beef and free-range chicken can be hard to find, depending on where in the country you live.

David Perkins realized the benefits of non-industrially raised animals while he was a culinary student in France.

It was an adventure the longtime technology leader always wanted to take but didn’t get around to until later in life. When he returned to the U.S. after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, he started working on Beetnik Foods, an Austin-based online retail store that ships grass-fed beef as well as other raw and prepared foods all across the country.

The company launched out of a small bungalow on East Cesar Chavez Street in late 2012, and last year, Perkins took the biggest step yet toward his commitment to selling better meat — investing in two local ranches: Dewberry Hills Farm in Lexington, which sells pasture-raised chicken at local farmers markets and directly to restaurants, and, in partnership with Bastrop Cattle Company owner Pati Jacobs, Jacobs Bastrop Ranch.

“I want a healthy, long-lasting relationship with these farmers,” Perkins says. “I’ve seen the real issues that these farmers and ranchers are having to deal with.”

The investment in Dewberry Hills will allow owners Jane and Terry Levan to expand their processing capacity. And Beetnik Foods’ partnership with Jacobs Bastrop Ranch isn’t just about securing a steady stream of beef for Perkins’ company.

Next month, with the help of the Beetnik investment, Jacobs will finally break ground on a slaughterhouse, a dream she’s been working toward for many years that will help not only her ranch but countless other small ranchers who sometimes struggle to find an affordable place to have their animals processed, especially during hunting season.

For now, Beetnik can’t source all of its chicken and beef from those Central Texas farms — some of the organic chicken comes from California, and some of the beef from elsewhere in Texas — but that’s the goal.

However, whole cuts of meat aren’t the only thing available through Beetnik. “We have two kinds of customers, cooks looking for protein and those looking for convenience,” Perkins says.

For the latter, Beetnik launched its first fully prepared frozen meals at the end of 2013, which are also available at a handful of local retail stores, including Royal Blue Grocery and Fresh Plus.

In addition to a Peruvian chicken stew and an all-beef chili, two of the meals are meatballs — one made with chicken, the other beef — and all of the meals (about $8 each in stores, $11.99 online) are made without preservatives and “with ingredients you’d have in your kitchen,” Perkins says.

Last year, they also expanded their offerings to include nontraditional seasonal produce, such as purple, red and yellow carrots, purple cauliflower and kohlrabi, from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

The majority of the frozen meals and other Beetnik products, many of which are gluten-free, are available for home delivery through their website, beetnikfoods.com. The minimum order is $70, with shipping starting at $16.

(It’s worth noting that the facility where the foods are prepared in Dallas is not a certified gluten-free production house, which can affect customers with celiac and other extreme sensitivities to gluten. The foods shipped directly to consumers go through a Kansas City distribution center.)

Perkins says they are always developing new products in the commercial kitchen space in their Austin office, which other local food businesses, including caterers, can rent.