Updated: Sep 20, 2019
I just read an article on the death of subscription meal kits... and let's just say, it pulled my string.
My Facebook feed is crammed with subscription box ads - from everything from Blue Apron, to Hello Fresh, to Dinnerly, and so many more that have popped up in recent years.
I hate subscription boxes, you guys. I feel like, at best they're a novelty, only to be used as a one time gift basket for someone that doesn't want the standard "summer sausage, cracker, and cheese box" for a holiday gift. But unless your subscription is a local CSA or farm meats share that replaces your actual daily shopping - there is really nothing redeemable about them.
Here's why subscription meal kits and food boxes are a problem.
They generate a lot of waste.
... and by a lot, I mean, like A LOT. There is a major problem in this country with regard to waste. Every time you purchase a packaged good, you have a plastic wrapper that you have to discard. Subscription boxes take the plastic wrapper off of one head of lettuce, and create 4 individual packs - wrapped in plastic.
This is the antithesis of "waste not, want not" - it's more like "waste a lot, and want ever more". That's not a step forward for the planet.
There is still an entire distribution system between you and the food.
In the 20th Century, the supply chain was focused on market saturation by means of providing face to face access with as many people as possible. Remember the days there was a Starbucks on multiple corners of an intersection, and the dream of having a Wal-Mart in every town - that's face to face market saturation.
But after the dawn of the digital shopping age, all of this shifted to the focus on logistics... Thanks Amazon...
We buy everything online, so it only makes sense that people would shift toward services like Hello Fresh, or Butcher Box. But these services are just 21st century middle men. Their marketing is intended to make you feel like they have personal shoppers there, and they are basically just like your local farmer, but they're not curating a box specifically for you. They didn't grow the food. They're just taking the food, portioning it out, putting it in a box, marking up the price, and sending it on.
Cut... Them... Out...
Meal kits might teach you how to cook a single meal, but they do nothing for meal planning...
... they want you hooked on their goods, and they want you to order again, so they do nothing to teach you how to meal prep so that you can have leftovers.
They could provide a meal plan so that you use an entire chicken, beak to butt, bones and all, and give you the same ingredients to utilize in making 3 separate meals, but they don't. They intentionally don't want you to learn how to do that, because then, you wouldn't need them anymore.
By providing the "convenience" of just a single portion, meal kits train you to cook, which I applaud - but in reality, all they're doing is adding a few steps to the traditional "pop a few holes in the top with a fork and throw it in a microwave" dinner.
They want to keep you dependent on their services, under the pretense of how much you would waste if you went to the store and purchased one pound of carrots, vs their individually wrapped single carrot.
They are marketing to convince you that they are me... but they're not.
Did you know that Butcher Box sources most of its pork from Australia? What exactly is local or sustainable about shipping meat halfway around the world???
On the page where they talk about their chicken, the ever popular Butcher Box says that the birds "spend their days roosting in barns and exploring the outdoors"... next to this statement, there is a photo of some chickens out in the grass - not a hundred, like 4 or 5.
First of all, did you know that broiler chickens don't even roost? Most local farmers want to educate you, and encourage you to be a part of the process. These companies count on being able to show you pictures of happy chickens in the grass to make you feel good about your choices - think about it - Butcher Box literally just told you that their chickens are raised in barns, but because we're visual creatures, all we see is the photo of happy chickens on pasture, and we feel great about buying their food.
I'm not knocking them - I'm sure they're doing a much better than average job at raising livestock than companies like Smithfield or Tyson. But in the words of Nelson Mandela - "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
There are a lot of reasons why folks get into pasture based farming - but at the end of the day, for most of us, it's for reasons far larger than ourselves.
Ordering a farm share might be a little intimidating - and I get it. But...
You will have an actual support system. You will have someone you can call and ask questions, or recipe ideas for, or what to do with that cross rib steak that you've never heard of.
I might not have 24/7 support via a 1-800 number - but I have something better. I have the honor of being your farm-her. And that's something I take very seriously.
I learn your likes and dislikes for different cuts the old fashioned way, by getting to know you as a human being - not a customer number.
I've met your children, and let them pet a chicken. I've had dinner with you, and shared a beer on a rare Saturday night "off". And you know our story as well as we know yours.
You can't get that in a box.
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