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ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

Virtually all the meat I consume at home comes from this service. It may be too good to be true, and go bankrupt. 🐷

That's not an exaggeration. In 2017, I was a happy MoviePass member, but it wasn't sustainable for them. To me it's unclear how ButcherBox makes any money off of me.

But we'll talk about that later. This is a service I recommend for anyone who eats meat. Even though the actual products are premium — organic, grass-fed, and/or humanely raised.


Photo credit - Sina Asgari / Unsplash

"A meat subscription service??"

The gist of the service is that grass-fed beef and other high-quality butchery are expensive in the store. Whether that's a traditional Whole Foods or an Amazon Fresh.

By signing up for monthly or bi-monthly boxes of meat, you get convenience and a dramatic cost savings. ButcherBox gets (this is a guess) a more predictable customer/demand for the products they source.

I understand them as a middle man to farms raising animals to higher standards than whatever industrial hell enables Dollar Tree steaks.

Your box can contain any or all of chicken, beef, or pork. You can change this at any time. There's also the option for "add-ons" to any box. For example, in my last box I added a $49.99 "ground beef blast" of 10 pounds grass-fed beef.

You can pause your membership indefinitely if need be. When I'm on the road or just away from home a lot, I pause. Like December through January were all away from home. My first box of the year only arrived a few weeks ago.

ButcherBox pause menu.

To me this is all very flexible, convenient, and saves money. The latter part isn't as important to me — I would pay $9 a pound for grass-fed ground beef, if it means some animals are more humanely raised. I shell out $7 per dozen eggs on the regular.

But after lots of deliveries, and doing the math, ButcherBox isn't much more expensive than "regular" meat from the grocery store. That's why I'm skeptical of their profitability...

We'll analyze that further on.

My history with ButcherBox

At this point I'd estimate consuming a dozen boxes from the service. So, many dozens of pounds of meat.

I initially signed up for ButcherBox like 3 years ago. I did find it requires a lot of freezer space, and ended up canceling my membership while co-habitating in Hoboken.

ButcherBox box.

There was a nice offer for restarting my membership, in "free bacon for life." That was the first "for life" offer I'd added from the service. It seemed too good to be true.

Let's... look at that more closely.

Giving away the store — can it last?

This is the ButcherBox receipt for my last box.

Taking a look at that, you'll notice I have 3 "for life" deals. These are things that I paid one-time costs for and add extra things to all boxes for the life of my membership.

Does that... seem sustainable? See the following breakdown.

  • "Free Bacon for Life"
    • 10 oz. bacon package added to each box
    • Free promotion for re-registering (June 2019)
  • "Free Wings for Life"
    • 3 lb. chicken wing package added to each box
    • $35.00 one-time cost (August 2019)
  • "Free Ground Beef for Life"
    • 2 lb. grass-fed ground beef package added to each box
    • $29.95 one-time cost (October 2019)

Hmmm. So obviously at some point these start to be a per-box cost, and cut into whatever profit ButcherBox makes off each package. But maybe the increased loyalty (read: predictability of revenue) from this particular customer, me, makes up for it.

There seem to be too many variables involved in butchery for me to even make a decent guess at the take on each delivery. The profit estimate for each box, even assuming no one-time addition products. I went researching and it didn't clarify matters.

Screenshot of a meat business Excel spreadsheet.
Lost in a meat business spreadsheet.

A podcast transcript with the ButcherBox CEO did reinforce that "bacon for life" is good for new sign-ups. That podcast is here via Mixergy.

And also read a bunch of "mommy blogs" shilling ButcherBox without questioning their margins. The Mixergy podcast made it sound like the business is doing just fine though. I digress.

Closing thoughts

As mentioned, this is a recommended service I've been very happy and loyal to. There's high likelihood any meal cooked in my home will include ButcherBox products.

You get $30 off an initial order with this offer link. For transparency's sake, that also yields $30 in meat credits for me. I can't spend it on drugs or cloud computing. It will get eaten.

There are a lot of evil things that take place in this world to enable "normal" and cheap supermarket meat, but in my opinion the answer is not vegetarianism/veganism. It's to demand higher standards alongside a willingness to pay for them. If this service is any indication, the price difference really isn't so big.

My freezer full of ButcherBox products.