BY GREGORY ZELLER // Cluck ’n Moo, an innovative substitute for the classic beef patty that introduces lean poultry to the mix, is ready to take wing.
Inventor Steve Gold says the resulting beef-and-chicken hybrid lowers the fat and calorie content without skimping on taste or texture, and with Cluck ’n Moo already gracing supermarkets across New York, he’s on the hunt for $750,000 in venture capital to spread the word.
Some members of the Long Island Angel Network believe consumers will indeed flock to Gold’s gastronomy. The West Nyack businessman first pitched the investor group in February, and the presentation clearly whetted appetites: He was invited back for a second group pitch in March, then again to meet individual investors in April.
Gold, who was introduced to the angel group by his cousin, a retired financial consultant living in Old Westbury, said he felt “well-received” by the network, and while he hasn’t received any funding offers yet, they may be on the front burner. Without revealing any details, LIAN chair Michael Faltischek told Innovate LI that Gold’s meat mashup has “sparked some interest” among the angels.
Certainly, LIAN members wouldn’t be the first venture capitalists to sink their teeth into Gold’s burgers. The inventor said he’s close to securing investments from several off-Island investors and will soon begin an aggressive expansion of Cluck ’n Moo products and availability.
The burgers are currently available in Fairway supermarkets – including markets in Westbury and Lake Grove – and in King Food Markets in New Jersey. They’re also in freezers in Publix markets throughout Florida, Gold noted.
“We’re expanding,” he said. “Slowly, but surely.”
The burgers are manufactured and distributed by Cluck Inc., a food-industry marketing company Gold launched in 1993, one of many food-related efforts he’s made over three decades. Another was Murray’s Chickens, an Upstate New York poultry startup specializing in antibiotic-free birds, which Gold helped launch 20 years ago. As Murray’s VP of sales, he made lots of food-industry contacts – old friends who are happy to see him now.
“Since most of the products I developed when I worked at Murray’s did very well, they welcome me with open arms,” Gold said.
The entrepreneur conceived a part-beef, part-chicken patty to please his wife, who loves burgers and lamented that low-fat substitutes made from super-lean beef or turkey just don’t taste as good. It’s the fat that gives a burger its taste, Gold noted, so in the quest for a heart-healthier alternative, going completely lean isn’t the answer.
After “many trials and errors,” he found the right formula, and in the process invented what he claims is “the first hybrid burger that combines grass-fed beef and chicken.” The Cluck ’n Moo boasts 52 percent less fat, 57 percent less saturated fat and 34 percent fewer calories than a standard 80-percent-lean, 20-percent-fat burger.
And unlike other lower-fat alternatives like turkey burgers, Cluck ’n Moo burgers – which sell for between $7.99 and $8.99 per pound, comparable to a pound of grass-fed beef burgers – maintain their juiciness through a “patent-pending process I developed,” Gold noted.
“The moisture loss is picked up by the chicken,” he said. “So you don’t have any moisture or fat loss by cooking it.”
However he does it, it appears this nation may be hungering for a more health-conscious take on the all-American food. Helped in part by those detailed Nutrition Facts labels affixed to store-bought food products and calorie listings on restaurant menus, Americans are making incrementally healthier food choices.
A 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture report noted that between 2005 and 2010, daily caloric intake declined by 78 calories per day for the average American, with overall drops in cholesterol, calories from fat and calories from saturated fat, plus an uptick in fiber intake.
While some observers believe the Great Recession helped skew those numbers, the USDA reports that 42 percent of working-age adults and 57 percent of older adults now consult those nutrition labels “most or all of time” when making food choices, while 76 percent of working-age adults say nutrition information, when available, informs their in-restaurant orders.
Also of interest to Cluck Inc.’s bottom line: The USDA reports that U.S. consumption of red meat – long linked to heart disease and diabetes – has been on a 10-year decline, while domestic consumption of chicken has been on a decade-long rise. Consumption of chicken outpaced that of beef in the United States in 2014, for the first time in a century.
Again, economic factors may be in play: The increasing price of corn has beefed-up beef prices. But whether they’re protecting their health or their wallets, there’s no denying Americans are eating fewer cows and more chickens – good news for an upstart burger-maker pushing partial-poultry patties.
That should help Gold raise that $750,000 – 80 percent of which, he noted, will be used “to make sure people know about the products and ask for them.” The rest will go into development of an expanded Cluck ’n Moo line, including hybrid meatballs and sausages, with Gold suggesting a separate line of certified organic products could be ready as soon as this fall.
Whatever products it produces, the founder said Cluck Inc. will continue to obtain its livestock only from farms meeting a “specific criteria.” Among other non-negotiables, they must be family-owned, certified as humane and “as sustainable as they can be.”
“They have to care about the environment,” Gold noted. “And there has to be an actual person on the farm, watching how the animals grow.”
Even the CEO is aware that Cluck ’n Moo burgers won’t appeal to everyone. “Some people say ‘the only fish I’m going to eat is lobster,’” he said. “Some people who love their burgers just want beef.”
But anyone who thinks like Gold’s wife – a burger-lover who just wanted a little less fat – will find that “a healthy, good-tasting product really does exist,” Gold added.
“There are real people behind this product, not just a marketing company with a name,” he said. “There’s real passion behind it. We’re excited about this and we’re getting a great response – and by the way, we think they taste even better.”