This company is serving up “regenerative turkey” this Thanksgiving

Cream Co.’s birds start at $99.
article cover

Cream Co.

· 4 min read

Thanksgiving isn’t the most environmentally friendly holiday. A 16-pound turkey generates a carbon footprint of 34.2 pounds of CO2, according to Carnegie Mellon researchers in 2016. (For context, burning one gallon of gasoline creates roughly 20 pounds of CO2.)

But the rise of the “conscious consumer” looking for a more sustainable feast this year provided an opportunity for Cream Co. Meats: The California–based company rolled out its first regenerative turkey online this month.

  • It partnered with PT Ranch, an Ecological Outcome Verified (EOV) Ranch, on the bird.
  • Customers in six West Coast states were able to place online orders, which were shipped out last week.

Regener-huh? Regenerative agriculture, a growing trend in the industry, aims to make food systems more sustainable by taking into account things like biodiversity, water cycles, and climate-change resilience when farming. Companies like Hormel Foods, Danone North America, and even PepsiCo​ are devoting money and land to the practice, especially as shopper sentiments shift.

  • A 2020 IBM study shows that 44% of consumers are “purpose-driven” when they buy groceries, meaning they want their food to align with their values.

It doesn’t come cheap—for the consumers (who know the term) or companies.

“Obviously people pay more for organic. I think with regenerative, consumers may not be aware of what that means,” Kearney’s Corey Chafin said. “It’s not as common a phrase. It doesn’t have much consistency in definitions.”

All the trimmings: Cream Co.’s regenerative turkeys start at $99, about the same price as one that’s free-range. Traditional turkeys, meanwhile, will run the average consumer $23.99 for a 16-pound bird, up 24% from 2020.

  • This year’s average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is coming in at $53.31, up 14% from last year and the highest it’s been since the Farm Bureau started tracking prices in 1986.

Cliff Pollard, who founded the regenerative meat processor and distributor in 2016, is counting on eco-friendly customers already paying a premium for a special, high-quality meal.

“It’s addressing the consumer that wants to make a difference with what they eat, that wants what they eat to have a healthy impact on themselves from a nutritional point of view, but also from the climate and ecological point,” he told us.

  • PT Ranch utilizes healthy soil, no-till farming, composting, and other sustainable methods. Also, Cream Co.’s regenerative birds aren’t injected with antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, or additives, nor are they raised in unsanitary or crowded spaces.

The trouble with turkey

Cream Co. and PT Ranch crossed their Ts in time for the regenerative turkey launch, but it was $$$. The companies had to build a whole new supply chain and employ different farming processes for the product, which Pollard describes generally as more “expensive.”

“It’s also more costly to do something on a seasonal basis,” Pollard explained. It’s also more expensive to roll out a new product during the pandemic.

  • Cream Co. has seen up to 100% and sometimes 200% increases on baseline hard material costs.
Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Our free retail newsletter delivers insights to keep retail leaders and decision-makers up to date.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into a successful ramp-up to make sure that everybody is getting what they need both on the supply side, but then also on the consumer side,” he continued. Covid, too, came with some challenges.

“You never knew if your supply chain was going to fall apart....the hatcheries or the slaughter house [could] get hit with a breakout of Covid or some other [supply] issue,” Pollard said.

Plus, regenerative or not, turkeys are tricky. “It’s all about timing,” he explained. You have to buy the chicks at the right time, make sure they’re healthy before they go out in the pasture, and feed them just the right amount so they grow at the right pace.

Year of the bird: Ultimately, regenerative products don’t make up a huge portion of consumers’ sustainable food pie, or the overall market.

“It’s quite hard to do that at scale, particularly during something like the Thanksgiving holiday, where all the volume comes within the same two-week purchase period,” Kearney’s Chafin admitted. “But, if you broaden it beyond that, anything in terms of climate conscious diets, you're definitely seeing a lot of activity from the consumer front on that.”

In step with that thinking, Cream Co. wants its turkey to become a year-long event. The company will begin harvesting the regenerative turkeys at least once a quarter, and maybe even more frequently down the line, to strengthen the supply chain, lower costs, and make the processes more efficient.

“We are planning on turning this into a year-round program,” Pollard said. “So that when Thanksgiving comes, it’s not just this one big shot that we're doing, which could be more expensive.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Our free retail newsletter delivers insights to keep retail leaders and decision-makers up to date.