NEW YORK, July 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Cooks Venture, a vertically-integrated food company re-envisioning the future of agriculture, today announced the closing of a $10 million Series A investment. SJF Ventures and Cultivian Sandbox led the investment with participation from Larry Schwartz and John Roulac, executive producer of the upcoming documentary on regenerative agriculture, Kiss the Ground.
Cooks Venture breeds and raises a proprietary slow-growth, heirloom chicken, taking into account the health of the animal and the health of the environment. The company's team invested over a decade in bringing a healthier chicken to market. It re-imagined how selective breeding is conducted through more natural criteria and heritage lines. This is in stark contrast to the industrial-bred and factory-farmed chickens that dominate the broiler industry today. Cooks Venture is the only vertically integrated chicken producer in the United States that has an independent genetics operation (breeding through selection, not genetic engineering) without ties to the two globally consolidated genetics companies.
In pursuing their mission, Cooks Venture has created much more: a chicken yielding strikingly better taste for consumers, markedly improved animal welfare for their birds, strong natural pathogenic resistance for food systems, new demand for regenerative agricultural crops and better economics for farmers and employees.
"As the structural flaws in the meat industry have recently become painfully clear, we know our vision could not come at a more important time," said Matthew Wadiak, founder and CEO of Cooks Venture and former COO and founder of Blue Apron. "We are working hard to drive the agricultural industry toward greater biodiversity, breed diversity, and true transparency for consumers. Our innovations provide food security while supporting regional communities."
The Series A investment helps Cooks Venture further grow and commercialize on a national scale as well as strengthens their regenerative crop management program.
"We are very excited about the differences between the breed of chicken that Cooks Venture offers from the two breeds that constitute more than 90% of global chicken consumption and generate uniform taste," said Alan Kelley, managing director at SJF Ventures. "Seeing Cooks Venture's chickens exhibit unusually healthy, vibrant attributes at one of the company's farms was a powerful moment for us. It helped us to understand why consumers rave about the flavor of Cooks Venture's chickens and why a pasture-raised environment is a fitting place for these unique birds to roam and grow."
"Cooks Venture is that rare company that improves the food system across every dimension -- for farmers, animals, consumers, and the planet. The taste and texture of their chicken is simply unmatched, and we're thrilled to partner with Matthew and his team to help bring this experience to more consumers," said Dan Phillips, managing director at Cultivian Sandbox Ventures.
Partnership with FoodID
Cooks Venture is also pleased to announce their partnership with Food In Depth (FoodID), co-founded by Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch and BN Ranch, that provides transparency and accountability for food safety claims. "Cooks Venture is foraging a whole new way to raise chicken, "says Niman. "By using superior breeds and raising them on pasture, they are making tastier, more nourishing meat. By partnering with FoodID, they are creating full transparency in their process. They are the first company in the United States with a fully verified claim that their meat is truly antibiotic free."
FoodID's platform tests for the presence of antibiotics and other adulterants in a comprehensive, rigorous and near real-time proprietary process. Until now, the industry has lacked a scalable testing solution of this kind. The predominate validation of antibiotic-free meat came from trust between producers and buyers. As such, many "no-antibiotic" label claims could not be verified.
With the establishment of the partnership in early 2019, Cooks Venture has become the first company in America to test for synthetic inputs. Cooks Venture is now the only company that can independently validate that it never uses antibiotics and provides verified Non-GMO feed to its birds.
"We have read about misleading claims in agriculture for years along with concerns over antibiotic resistance. In partnering with FoodID, we have independent, scientifically verified data to prove that we are true to our claims – we never use antibiotics and our chickens are 100% Non-GMO," states Wadiak. "We know that label fraud is a serious problem in the poultry and larger food industry. Over 70% of the total use of antibiotics globally are used in animal agriculture and lead directly to antibiotic resistance in people. False ABF (Antibiotic Free) and NAE (No Antibiotic Ever) claims are a critical problem and the USDA's criteria for understanding these issues make it impossible to accurately test the majority of foods consumed by Americans. We took the initiative to validate our work so our customers can be confident in our claims and rest assured that are eating nutritious and high-quality meat from a verified source. Mislabeling is bad for consumers, worse for the planet and damaging to farmers like us who work hard to raise good meat."
Cooks Venture is headquartered in New York with operations in Arkansas and Oklahoma. To learn more about Cooks Venture, visit www.cooksventure.com.
About Cooks Venture
Founded by Matthew Wadiak, Cooks Venture is a vertically integrated food company that's re-envisioning the future of agriculture. Cooks Venture's heirloom chicken operation is a Global Animal Partnership Step 4 certified company, which is the animal welfare certification recognized by the ASPCA® Shop With Your Heart program, Certified Humane and verified Non-GMO. For more information, visit www.cooksventure.com.
About SJF Ventures
Founded in 1999, SJF Ventures invests in high-growth companies creating a healthier, smarter and cleaner future. Representative portfolio companies include ethical food company Vital Farms, clean energy producer Community Energy, circular economy platform Optoro, diabetes coaching provider Cecilia Health, and diversity recruiting company Jopwell. SJF Ventures has offices in New York, Durham, San Francisco and Seattle. For more information, visit www.sjfventures.com.
About Cultivian Sandbox Ventures
Based in Chicago, Cultivian Sandbox is a venture capital firm that invests in innovative companies transforming food and agriculture. To support these companies in their growth, the team leverages decades of experience in the food and agriculture sector, a network of market-leading strategic partners, and a track record of multi-stage institutional investing. For more information, visit www.cultiviansbx.com or connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Elizabeth Matthews, Cooks Venture
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SOURCE Cooks Venture