ReGen Brands Recap #58

Derrick Jackson @ Grass Grazed

Refocusing The Family Farm On CPG Meat Sticks

Derrick Jackson is a first-generation farmer and Co-Founder of Grass Grazed based in Durham, North Carolina. Grass Grazed is supporting regenerative agriculture with a myriad of direct-to-consumer livestock products, including grass-fed beef and pork, pastured poultry and eggs. They recently launched their first CPG item online – Grazed Snax – a meat stick made from 100% pasture-raised pork. 

<svg width="50px" height="50px" viewbox="0 0 60 60" version="1.1" xmlns="" xmlns:xlink=""><g stroke="none" stroke-width="1" fill="none" fill-rule="evenodd"><g transform="translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)" fill="#000000"><g><path d="M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631"></path></g></g></g></svg>
View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Paige + Derrick (@grassgrazed)

Meeting His Own Demand(s)

Derrick and his family, like many rural Americans, lived in a food desert. Still active duty and stationed on a military base in North Carolina, Derrick was struggling with gut issues. He quickly went down a rabbit hole on food production and resolved to find better foods for himself and his family. It started with weekend trips to a local farmers market – not easy when you’re juggling four kids and their schedules…until his chicken source dried up.

“I was like, we’re trying to feed seven people. You’re a farmer, you do this for a living. How do you run out? And he told me what I didn’t know…I went home and started looking up 'how long does it take to grow chickens?' I watched a YouTube video about a man who went from being an accountant to raising all of his food. I thought, if this person can do it, I can too.” – Derrick

That night, with his wife Paige sleeping beside him, he ordered his first brood.

Backyard Chicken Chronicles

Waking up the next day, the reality of late-night shopping hit home. Ordering chicks is a good idea when you live on a farm, but definitely a challenge when you’re living in an esteemed subdivision in historic downtown Fayetteville, with tiny backyards and no fences. He texted Paige with a screenshot of the sales confirmation, asking her “What do I do now?”

Derrick had no other choice than to get up to speed, and quickly. After consuming dozens of books on pastured poultry and farming, Derrick and the family started raising their 25 chickens in a chicken wagon. They got plenty of surprisingly positive inquiries from their neighbors. 

Eight weeks in, they ran into a small hiccup: processing. Derrick found a processor in South Carolina. With lots of laughs at his expense, she quickly informed him that their minimum was well above 25 birds. Not one to give up, Derrick did the research, took an online class, bought some equipment, and harvested the chickens on their driveway with Paige and the four kids.

“I always thought that the police were gonna show up. Someone’s gonna drive by and see the chickens hanging and report it. But I told my neighbors we're gonna process the chickens in the yard. There were so many people asking about the birds that the wheels started to turn in my head. I wanna do something on my own.” – Derrick

Buying & Building A Farming Business

It was time to expand. While looking at properties to lease, a local farmer planted the idea of regenerative farming with Derrick, emphasizing that "a good farmer will take the land and bring animals that will benefit the land, not the other way around.” He was hooked.

The Jackson’s leased a 60-acre farm, inheriting the existing layer operation with it. They also partnered up with a friend who convinced them to take on 15 hogs to root around the 40 acres of woodlands. A marketer by experience, Paige realized that building a brand was a lot harder than working off existing market share. So they found another farm that had been selling products for about eight years, acquired their existing business, and refreshed the brand. 

In just 11 months, the Jacksons went from raising 25 to 4,000 chickens – during COVID. They diversified into five income streams (poultry, eggs, beef, pork, and dairy) and secured a steady revenue stream.

They built a stable and centralized market for their diversified products through a buyer’s club of 65 local families, committed to exclusively sourcing all their protein from the farm. These families are invested in the process. It enables the farmer to sell the whole animal, there’s no middlemen, and the farmer and “eaters” share in the expenses and benefits. 

“It helps us to predict our bottom line. We don't have to worry about paying the rent or paying the mortgage or paying our employees because we know that that's covered from our buying club. So we are able to focus on other things.” – Derrick

Chasing CPG

Buying farmland, particularly for first-time, historically underserved farmers like the Jacksons who are African-American and want to farm the land regeneratively, is a huge challenge. To get an FSA or USDA loan for the property, too often the questions center on conventional practices and revenue from commodity systems.

“She said, there’s a poultry farmer in your county that raised hundreds of thousands of birds a year. She’s looking at revenue only. My revenue isn’t as high, but I bring home way more than they do in profits. We support three families from our farm. But that’s how they based the application process. I’m not going to do that to be able to purchase land. So CPG was the only other option.” – Derrick

By creating a meat stick, the Jacksons have been able to capture profits from the whole pig, not just the preferred cuts. There’s less stress from packaging and shipping non-perishables versus frozen, perishable proteins. And the margins don’t hurt either.

CPG Challenges

While the meat sticks promise long-term ROI, getting them ready for market was a Herculean task – from navigating what you can and can’t put on a label (they couldn’t claim gluten-free, non-GMO) to the headaches of ensuring an accurate barcode, to nailing down the ingredients and processing. 

“Overall it's been a good transition from what we're able to control as a farmer. I want to be able to control the entire process as much as possible because I don’t want additional hands touching the product because that's when things get added and changed. We don’t want to cut corners and want to have as much transparency as possible. And that means from the animals we produce to the meat sticks, to the actual label, packaging and shipping. We want to be involved in the whole process. That way, when our customers ask us, where did that come from, we’re not afraid to tell them.” – Derrick

50% Market Share

For Grass Grazed, the future is meat sticks and CPG products from pasture-raised animals. And as Derrick sees it, "bringing more farmers to the table” is the key to a regenerative future.

“Farmers are already producing, right? Farmers are already producing good products, but we need more brands and marketers that are willing to bring the farmer to the table. We want them at the table, in the conversation, because we're less likely to take advantage of them. They will produce the products in a way that's regenerative and not just sustainable. They will produce the actual supply that they need in order to get the products out there.

People want the product. People want healthy. They want a local product that is raised in a good way. So if we share these stories and tell them how farmers are actually doing it, we get people to trust these CPG products and support regenerative ag.” – Derrick

You can check out the full episode with Derrick Jackson @ Grass Grazed HERE.

Subscribe to future episodes of the ReGen Brands Podcast on your favorite podcast platform using the buttons below. You can help support our mission of growing regenerative CPG brands with a 5-star rating!

Stay engaged in the conversation by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, The ReGen Brands Weekly, and connecting with us on LinkedIn (Kyle & AC).

Your support of the show and these brands truly means the world to us. Thank you!

This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober