Hack Meat Event in New York Attracts New Ideas

New York's trendiest rags wrote articles about the event.  Several 20- and 30- somethings gathered as if for a festival to watch well-known Meat Hook butcher Tom Mylan demonstrate cuts of pork at a swanky studio.  "I'm swiveling in my chair between my computer and checking out the butchering," explained David Chaitt as he chatted with me on the phone.  Some attendees snapped pictures to instantly share via their smart phones.
Tom Mylan butchering demonstration at Hack Meat
Photo courtesy:  Mike Lee of Studiofeast.com 
Hack Meat brought together meat industry progressives with technology enthusiasts to imagine the future of US meat production.  They looked for ways to help small family farms and butchers connect with consumers, and ways for consumers to learn more about the origins of their food.  The event included contests to encourage idea-sharing.  Major sponsor Applegate challenged contestants to "match consumer demand with grocery store supply," code for "let's get more consumers to request our products."  The difference between this and traditional marketing is that emerging food leaders are all about transparency and consumer education.  Applegate is a leader in providing convenience meats for families without the unwanted preservatives and additives so common in grocery store fare today.  (This is not a sponsored post;  as a parent with a farming background I happen to care about what they're doing.)

"I want to find brands that are in line with my values, but that are also within my budget," shared mom-of-three Wendy Overton from Louisiana.  She said her growing awareness that what she feeds her family is vitally important is what brought her to the hackathon as a contestant.  She worked with a team creating an education-filled website that would link via a widget to mommy blogs.  Overton realizes making healthier and more sustainable food choices can be a slow process for families, "They can just begin to increase their awareness as they make these choices."

Chaitt worked at the computer all weekend helping create a new, mobile phone app to update today's shopping list.  He and his team believe their approach brings social networking and niche marketing together.  "This allows you to create your list in an optimized way that will save time, allow you to work off the recommendations of your peers and also find new products that you may have not known existed."  Key to the app is the ability to find suggestions for products that fit your individual needs, as well as the chance to make recommendations to stores.

The Hack Meat winning entry is called CARV.  It's a web-enabled scale and labeling device for connecting small-scale meat processors with businesses and government inspectors.  Several creative ideas emerged from the event.  “I was incredibly impressed with the caliber of work that came out of just 48 hours of collaboration. I can only imagine the impact these projects will have when continued to completion and I look forward to seeing their introduction into the market,” said Stephen McDonnell, event-co host and CEO of Applegate.  GRACE Communications Foundation and Food+Tech Connect also hosted the event.

Both Chaitt and Overton have entrepreneurial aspirations of their own.  Overton currently blogs at StartupCartograpy, while Chaitt has a background in the music business.  They were grateful for the chance to connect with food industry leaders during the Hack Meat event.  Some of these technology-inspired ideas may be coming soon to an app near you. Despite the popular demo, not all attendees will be taking up butchering.  Chaitt shared cheekily of the food source, "I just like to eat it."