How Our Meat and Seafood Producers Make the Grade

May 20, 2019
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
How Our Meat and Seafood Producers Make the Grade

It’s no exaggeration to say our Product Innovation Lead Mike Hacaga criss-crosses the globe to find the best meat and seafood for our exceptional program. One month might find him down south meeting our pig farmers in Georgia, and the next month he’s jetting to the prairies of Chile to visit our beef supplier. But what does it take to become a supplier for Thrive Market Meat & Seafood? Read on to find out.

Mike Hacaga

What are some of the top values we look for in producers?

I would have to say it’s integrity and passion. Even though we have third-party verification audits and conduct unannounced visits to our partner ranches, we still have to trust the rancher to follow our protocols and to put animal welfare ahead of profits. At Thrive Market, we’re looking to make connections with family farms who align with our values on animal welfare, regenerative agricultural practices, and sustainable fishing.

“At Thrive Market we’re looking to make connections with family farms who align with our values on animal welfare, regenerative agricultural practices, and sustainable fishing.”

What’s the vetting process like? Can you tell us how you find potential producers, and then how you go about evaluating them?

Now that the industry is recognizing our program as being world-class, it’s become easier to find potential producers who are eager to work with us. We’re being approached by both industry legends and newcomers, especially younger generations who are making changes for the better. A program evaluation always begins with boots on the ground. I spend time with our family producers, often spending multiple nights on the ranch and joining them for dinner at their family’s table.

When you’re visiting a farm, what are you looking for that can help you decide if they’re a good fit or not?

Each visit is a little bit different. If it’s a first visit, then I’m asking a lot of questions. If the farm is raising grass-fed beef, here are some of the top things I’m looking for:

  • Cattle health. I evaluate the overall condition of the animal, including muscle tone and hide quality. I check the eyes to make sure they’re clear and that the area around the eyes is free from discharge. I also assess the type of identification program the farm is using to evaluate and trace each animal.
  • Land health. I look at the pasture’s vegetative cover to make sure the grass can support all the animals that are being kept there.
  • Water resources. I check for easy access to clean drinking water.
  • Hazard areas. I evaluate the pens and corrals, looking for sharp nails. I also check the loading and unloading areas to see if there are potential hazards.
  • Records. Finally, I ask for records regarding any type of treatments that are applied at the ranch.

What would be considered a red flag?

Witnessing some kind of animal abuse or noticing that the animals are in poor health. Stocking growth promotants (like feed additives or growth hormones) in the medicine cabinet is also a big red flag.

What’s one of the hardest parts about finding partners that align with our values?

We’re asking a lot of our suppliers in terms of certifications and transparency. There are plenty of ranchers who are doing amazing work, but these extra requirements are what separates the world-class Thrive Market meat suppliers from everyone else.

“There are plenty of ranchers who are doing amazing work, but these extra requirements are what separates the world-class Thrive Market meat suppliers from everyone else.”

How do ranchers and farmers benefit from working with Thrive Market?

We’re willing to partner with our ranching partners and reward them with higher product premiums as they continue to elevate their attributes and certifications. Also, our video platform will eventually connect our members to profiles about our ranchers. We’ll be able to show them the beautiful farms of Chile and the amazing regenerative farming practices of our pork supplier. It’ll turn these folks into rock stars in the industry.


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This article is related to: Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Living, Sustainable Seafood, Biodynamic Agriculture

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