Denver/ Longmont (Retail Store, 476 17th Ave.)
James Viola and Bob LaPoint combine an old-school approach to raising and selling meat with a modern understanding of organic husbandry.
“Give me a home where the buffalo roam…”
A throwback to a simpler time is the feeling one gets when talking to James Viola and Robert “Bob” LaPoint, owners of Frontière Natural Meats, about bison and cattle, their meat processing company and recent entry into the private retail market.
The family-owned business was launched in 2009 when LaPoint was looking for an affordable way to bring a high quality natural meat product to customers in the region. Viola had worked in the natural meat processing industry since 1993. Their combined experience is today Frontière Natural Meats.
Frontière works with a network of producers, but own herds of bison and cattle located on ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska. “All of the herds are raised in a free range environment,” Viola says, “just like nature intended for them to live.” None of the animals are exposed to growth hormones, steroids or treated with antibiotics. Proponents of naturally raised beef also believe it to contain less fat than other meats.
All organically labeled meat is certified through the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Frontière utilizes a Colorado harvest facility designed by Dr. Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University professor known for her work in humane livestock handling processes.
At the processing plant sub-prime cuts of meat are hand cut and trimmed before going through any subsequent processing or packaging. Once cut into steaks or ground, the meat is vacuum sealed and has a 28 day shelf life. Specialized frozen packaging ensures unlimited shelf life. “I have meat in my freezer that is two years old and it is just as good today as it was the day I put it in there,” LaPoint says.
The company’s initial focus was selling all-natural bison wholesale in the Denver area. They added all-natural angus beef and organic grass-fed beef, utilizing local distributors to get the product to market. Frontière’s expanded the product line to include all-natural elk, organic pork and organic chicken. Local restaurants like Marlowe’s, Paramount, Lodo’s Café, and 5280 Burger Bar serve the company's products. Frontière also has a growing national distribution.
In June, the company opened its first retail outlet in Longmont, Colorado. The premise is to provide fresh natural meats directly to the consumer in a small town butcher shop-meets-high-tech environment.
It’s a novel experience. Employees walk customers through a process of choosing meat or offer an in-store iPad for use in researching a recipe or tips on cooking natural meats. Frontière’s store manager, Richard Honey, serves coffee and is eager to chat about cooking bison or nutritional information and may even share a recipe his own.
“This store is not just about selling healthy meats. It is about creating community, as in times past when folks gathered at the butcher shop to visit and swap cooking ideas,” Honey says. “I’ve already had people dropping in after work to tell me about a recipe or cooking success they’ve had with our products.”
Challenge: Managing costs: drought conditions have increased the cost of raising beef and other protein animals. “We are striving to keep these costs in line so that the consumer will have an affordable product,” says Viola.
Opportunities: LaPoint remarked, “Our goal is to service more of Colorado through company owned retail outlets.”
Needs: “Make sure we are working with our producers and having enough cattle and bison for a steady supply,” Viola says.