In Uruguay, cattle farming is an essential aspect of society; the South American country is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world, and cattle outnumber people. With an expanding, globalized market, it is likely young Uruguayans will follow the agricultural path previous generations forged before them. Rodrigo Echeverrigaray is no exception.
Echeverrigaray, a native Uruguayan, hopes to bring high-quality beef and South American flare to the U.S. meat industry with his new Westport, Connecticut-based butchery, M.EAT.
With an increasing demand for organic beef, Echeverrigaray and his business partner Beto Esteves saw their experience as a unique way to contribute to the market. Echeverrigaray, whose father is a cattle rancher, has been involved in the industry for years, both in production and trade. Uruguayan cattle ranchers pride themselves on their sustainable practices, which have been honed over generations. According to tradition, cattle are given high-quality feed and ample space to roam.
“In Uruguay, our animals have the space of two soccer fields,” says Echeverrigaray. “They have a lot of room to walk and be free. We do not have any pesticides, hormones or antibiotics in our meat—it’s very healthy and lean, and good for our bodies.”
Since 2013, Uruguay has implemented an advanced traceability system that electronically tags calves at birth. This allows the farmer, and eventual consumer, insight into each animal’s life. It is undoubtedly an expensive system but helps Uruguay maintain its positive reputation as one of the oldest exceptional beef exporters in the world.
In the U.S., there are hardly any beef companies that are involved in both the import and retailing of their product—M.EAT will be among the first retailers to do so, and the first in Westport. It’s only appropriate a Uruguayan would take the lead. The two entrepreneurs hope to open a second location in Connecticut and, eventually, a third in California.
M.EAT isn’t any average butcher, though. Expect a clean, sleek atmosphere and good conversation—complete with industrial fixtures, white tile and fresh coffee to sip on. The website proclaims: “Our vintage shop pays homage to an era gone by where old-school values and superior products are wrapped in hospitality.” The boutique fits snugly into the iconic Bedford Square mall.
The aesthetic reflects a modern consumer who is increasingly picky and environmentally aware. The young, educated meat consumer often desires a product that is thoughtfully produced, packaged and sold, all the way from the farm to the counter.
“The idea is selling Uruguayan beef while having a special atmosphere,” Echehverrigaray says. “Go read a magazine, have a coffee, chat with our butcher, who will explain our philosophy. It’s totally different from the production that we have in the U.S.”
Uruguay consistently ranks as one of the largest beef consumers in the world, which is reflected in the M.EAT philosophy—flavor is a priority.
“We understand how to eat it,” Echeverrigaray says. “We are bringing our flavors here to the States, and we really understand how the production and the flavors are part of the work.”
Echeverrigaray explains how M.EAT has partnered with several ranchers in Uruguay and other meat-producing countries, ranging from small, family-owned farms to larger producers boasting 2,000–3,000 heads of cattle. Because of the still relatively small scale, Echeverrigary is able to develop a personal relationship with many of the producers and maintain an open line of communication to ensure that all meat meets his stringent standards.
M.EAT is primarily focusing on raw meat—they will not be cooking in-house—and will provide a variety of cuts: ribeye, New York striploin, tenderloin, rump steak, brisket, flank, skirt, hanger, shoulder and flat iron, among others. Buyers will be able to personalize their purchases while learning about the production of the meat they take home.
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular aspects of M.EAT will be the burger bar, where shoppers can choose their grind, fat content and flavor profiles. They will then be able to choose from a selection of cheese and organic produce to create their ideal, mouth-watering burger to take home.
“You can go into the store, start chatting with the butcher and say, ‘Today I want to have this for dinner,’ and the butcher will specially produce that for you,” Echeverrigaray says. The main goal at M.EAT is to elicit a simultaneously comfortable, educational and personalized experience.
M.EAT represents a combination of creativity and class the meat industry desperately needs. Globally there has been a push for sustainable and economically viable meat options: M.EAT focuses in on this, while still offering customers a range of delicious options.
Visit M.EAT at 29 Church Lane, in Westport, Connecticut or on the web here.