We talked to Michael Javaherian of Carne Collective about quality meat and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michael Javaherian: The pandemic has been difficult. We’ve had to adapt the best we can just like the rest of the world. It’s been especially difficult not being able to see my parents and my extended family, as many of them are immunocompromised. I do have to say we are quite fortunate, though, that in these times, we have tools like facetime and zoom to stay in touch as best we can.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Carne Collective.
Michael Javaherian: I’ve always been the type of person that really needs to be passionate about what I’m doing. One of those passions has always been traveling and experiencing other cultures. It led me to start a travel company, where I was fortunate enough to really immerse myself in other cultures and see parts of the world I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I was younger. Throughout these travels, I really became enamored with the different foods of the world. On a trip to visit my friend and now partner Fernando Cantini, I fell in love with Argentina, especially with the Asado, which is an Argentinian barbeque. They do things a little differently down there and cook their meat really slow over embers, but it’s more than just a barbeque. It’s as much about the community as it is the actual food. After coming home, the meat just didn’t taste the same, and to be honest, I was a bit ignorant about what goes into the meat. Feedlots and grain-fed beef had become so normalized, I didn’t really know what beef could taste like and how it should make you feel. I figured that I could find Argentinian beef here in the U.S. since we have beef from all over the world, but came up empty-handed. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands, called my buddy Fernando, who’s family and friends own some of the largest farms in the country, and booked my flight back down. Carne Collective was born, and now almost a year later, we’re delivering the best pasture-raised, grass-fed Angus beef across the nation.
How does Carne Collective innovate?
Michael Javaherian: A lot of the new age innovations in the meat industry may be increasing efficiency but at the cost of quality. Carne Collective is actually going back to the Argentine roots by partnering with Gauchos and producing a product that is minimally processed and better for you than most American grain-fed beef. Our cattle are raised on open pastures their entire lives, never in feedlots, eat the natural grass mother nature produces, are tended to from a distance, and never given hormones or antibiotics. We also use regenerative farming techniques so that the cattle are actually restoring nutrients to the soil and minimizing methane release. We then do our best to be as green as possible with all of our products using packaging materials that can be recycled, used as plant food, or composted. Sometimes the best thing is the simplest thing, and we don’t want to ruin a good thing.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Michael Javaherian: The coronavirus has been tough to deal with, especially with launching a new business. As I said before, tools like zoom are a lifesaver, and working with Fernando, and our team in Argentina has been made much easier with tools like these. It was also a bit difficult initially, with so many processors shutting down due to outbreaks, so we actually launched later than we initially wanted to. There has been a silver lining in all this for us. It’s been hard for people to find high-quality products at their local grocers and butcher shops, and people have wanted to venture out less. So we see a lot of demand because of those factors.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Michael Javaherian: Absolutely! Starting a business is never easy and filled with difficult choices, commitments, and fear of the unknown. The easiest decisions I had were starting this business and partnering with one of my best friends, Fernando. I’ve learned that it’s really hard to do something alone, and having the right people around you changes everything. You can get stressed and burnt out, so having someone else in the fire with you, to take some of the burdens off your shoulders, or just understanding what you’re going through can help you get through to the finish line.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Carne Collective in the future?
Michael Javaherian: This has been one of the things that the pandemic has made harder than ever for me. I deal with stress by exercising. Unfortunately, the gyms are closed, and I can’t run due to having plantar fasciitis. I’ve had to slow myself down (which is very hard to do) and go on afternoon walks and hikes with my girlfriend. Spending the energy and getting fresh air and sun are huge for us. We’re going to need a lot more walks because our road has just started. Carne Collective is starting to gain a lot of traction, and we are in a massive market. We hope to be feeding a lot of America, and being that our meat is such high quality, you will be seeing us in restaurants all over the U.S.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michael Javaherian: We’re fortunate enough to have struck while the iron is hot and are the only ones delivering Argentinian beef on a national scale. To be competitive with the rest of the market is simple. Like anything else, we have to provide the highest quality product at a competitive price. We don’t cut any corners and never compromise ourselves by selling anything less than the best. We have a reputation for creating and upholding. At the end of the day, people trust us with what they put in their bodies, and we hold that dearly.
Your final thoughts?
Michael Javaherian: I started Carne Collective because I wasn’t happy with the options I had and knew it can be better. As much as I started this to be a business, I had other selfish reasons, and that was to eat something that I wanted. If I’ve gone through this much trouble to learn a new industry, put in this much work, invest this much time just so I can eat a steak from Argentina, it has to be that good. I’m excited to share that with everyone.