What’s that you say? You’re looking for 36 lbs. of bacon for that relative on your Christmas list that already has everything? Boy, have I got the deal for you.
Over the next week, and about once a month after that, Zaycon Fresh will be driving trucks full of meat to the area—they’ll hit up Bothell, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, etc. in addition to Seattle. The Spokane-based bulk protein delivery service has a simple ordering process: you buy online, they send you an address and time, you pull up, and ZF employees load a case of ribs or chicken breasts or whatever into your trunk. Off you go.
Owner Mike Conrad’s idea for the business came out of a time when he was broke—on welfare in 2009 after the mortgage industry crashed and he lost his job—and trying desperately to make a few quick bucks. His brother was a meat manager. The two had an idea: what if they could sell chicken in bulk, the way, say, Costco does, but without the middle man? The two entrepreneurs sold 850 cases of chicken to customers in Spokane and made enough to pay the bills for awhile—and think about how they were maybe on to something.
“We’re morons,” Conrad says, laughing. “We didn’t know we could fail, so we thought, ‘Hey! Let’s do chicken across America! Yeehaw!” They propositioned some 800 bloggers across the country—mainly penny-pinching folk who wrote about how to cut coupons and get stuff for free—and asked if they could get some blog coverage in exchange for 40 lbs. of free chicken. More than half the bloggers agreed. So Conrad and his small team of family members figured out how they were going to deliver all that chicken. Conrad rented a truck and drove from California to Florida, rolling up to bloggers’ homes with a Penske full of chicken; his cousin took the northern half of the country.
Now, thing are a little more organized, but the do-it-yourself heart of the business remains. Conrad presells cases of meat for cheap—that 36 lbs. of bacon is only $136.44, or $3.79 per pound—and then hires customers in each location to help unload the goods into waiting cars, as he’s realized he’d rather pay people who need it in food, and he likes the sense of community it builds. When I asked him why they weren’t selling better quality meats—locally raised, hormone-free, etc.—he said they initially did, but that the quantities they now need have outgrown what’s available in that segment of the industry. He’s ultimately interested in getting back there, in addition to adding produce and other local and seasonal goods straight from farmers. “If I had Amazon money, I would do the opposite of what Wal-Mart has done,” he says. “I would turn this into a kind of pre-paid farmers market, selling local products to local people. My focus has always been to help the wellness and uplifting of people.” Now that’s an idea we can get behind.
If you’re interested in buying from Zaycon Fresh, you can check out the locations here and order online. There’s no cost to sign up—you just pay for trunk full of bacon.