American Prairie Reserve's Wild Sky beef program has chefs and buyers excited. The story behind the products -- using economic incentives to encourage ranchers to make their land increasingly wildlife-friendly -- inspires all who hear it. But the business model is what really helps Wild Sky stand apart.
"The idea of conservation or predator-friendly beef is not new," notes Laura Huggins, APR's manager of economic initiatives. "We, as well as those who have tried before us, are met with enthusiasm in the marketplace. But when we explain how our business model addresses the stumbling blocks of those who have experimented with this concept, we get more than excitement -- we get the sale."
For instance, previous attempts at selling beef in support of conservation efforts concentrated heavily on the producer side but forgot to pay attention to quality and how beef moves through the market. With Wild Sky, Laura and her team have worked to develop demand first -- as witnessed by the restaurants and stores coast-to-coast that carry the product, including a growing number of stores in Montana, too.
Wild Sky sales now stand at about $10,000 per week, enabling the team to proceed with their plan to double ranching participation in 2015. "2014 was a great beta year; we still have much to learn but have high hopes for 2015 and beyond," Laura adds. Best of all, the program's success is a win-win. Profits from Wild Sky are split between the Reserve and ranching families who implement practices that help the region's wildlife.