Whole Foods makes deal with beef supplier Crystal River Meats | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods makes deal with beef supplier Crystal River Meats

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

BASALT – A Carbondale ranch family that specializes in natural, grass-fed beef has a golden opportunity to expand after coming to an agreement to supply meat to Whole Foods Market.Crystal River Meats, owned and operated by the Jacober family, has signed a deal to supply beef to the market opening in August at Willits Town Center in Basalt, according to Tai Jacober, one of three brothers who operate the beef operation with their dad. Once the ranchers can establish that they have the capacity to keep the Willits store well-stocked, the meat will be carried in the stores in Fort Collins and Belmar, on Colorado’s Front Range, said Ben Friedland, a spokesman for Whole Foods Market.Jacober said he has discussed doing a two-week promotion with Whole Foods throughout the 27 stores in its Rocky Mountain region. That covers Colorado, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming. The Willits store will be the 28th in the region. It is scheduled to open in mid-August. A 29th store in the region will open soon in Boise, Idaho.Supplying beef to the Willits store and any part of the chain’s Rocky Mountain region would be a huge boost to agriculture in the Roaring Fork and Crystal valleys. Crystal River Meats runs its own cattle on land it owns and land it leases in numerous locations in the valleys. It also grows and purchases a lot of hay for winter feeding. In addition, the Jacobers are supplied with beef from a handful of other local ranchers, such as Mat Turnbull, of Turnbull Land & Livestock, and Bill Fales and Marj Perry, of the Cold Mountain Ranch.Greater sales via Whole Foods Market mean a stronger market for beef from local ranchers and greater demand for hay and grazing space.”To be sustainable, you have to scale up. There’s no way around it,” Jacober said.Crystal River Meats started in 1999 when Jacober bought two cows, raised them and sold the meat. The business has continued to grow because beef eaters want to know where their meat is coming from, and many want it raised naturally and grass fed, he said. They want to avoid meat cut from cattle raised in feed lots and pumped with antibiotics as a normal course of business.Now Crystal River Meats is butchering 800 head of cattle per year. The business supplies about 40 restaurants in the Roaring Fork Valley, and customers can walk into the company’s store in Carbondale and find beef, lamb, poultry and a variety of greens. Tai is in business with brothers Rio and Forest and their dad, Jock.Crystal River Meats is an equal-opportunity supplier. It’s already done business with Whole Foods, providing 1,000 lambs for a promotion on Easter. It also supplies meat to Vitamin Cottage in Colorado, another natural-foods grocer.The Whole Foods in Willits has inked deals with numerous vendors from the Western Slope whenever possible. “We’re going to have hundreds of products from within Colorado,” Friedland said.A handful of the vendors supplying Whole Foods Market in Basalt are Eagle Springs Produce, of Rifle, Big B’s Fabulous Juices, of Hotchkiss, Carly’s Gold gourmet sauces, from Carbondale, and Midland Bakery, of Basalt.Friedland said the Whole Foods team goes through an extensive process to make sure it is a match with its vendors. That includes interviews, vetting of the businesses to make sure their standards are compatible, discussing supply capacity and agreeing on price points. Sometimes, a vendor isn’t a fit. “There are some ingredients we don’t allow in our stores,” Friedland said.The grocery chain’s decentralized system provides flexibility in working with small vendors. Each store with Whole Foods has a large degree of autonomy on what it stocks, so the Basalt store can reach an agreement with Crystal River Meats for beef just for Basalt, Friedland said. Many other chains require vendors that can supply multiple stores.The exposure for Crystal River Meats will be huge. Imagery in the store through signs and packaging will inform customers that the meat comes from the Carbondale area, and its practices will be outlined.”When it comes to food, and meat specifically, people are becoming more and more appreciative of transparency,” Friedland said.scondon@aspentimes.com