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How to serve meat that doesn't [email protected]&k up the planet

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Meet Lily Bovey, founder of Haus Party Collective and GROUND Climate Positive Burgers

Last month we spoke to Rishim Sachdeva. Chef and founder of Tendril, a (mostly) vegan kitchen. If you missed it, you can find the interview here. And whilst we’re all for making veggies the heroes, we thought it only fair to talk to someone who’s committed to quality meat that’s responsibly produced, and kind on the planet.

Lily has form in food. Having spent the last six years cutting her teeth on London’s food markets and at events with her STAKEhaus business and other offshoots.

We sat down for a chat about where it all began. The journey from leaving a corporate PR job through back garden trials, to running a thriving operation with multiple brands in multiple locations.

Delving into the nuts and bolts of her new business, in partnership with The Ethical Butcher, bringing carbon-negative burgers to London and beyond.


Discovering a passion for produce

Growing up between rural Surrey and West Sussex, Lily happily admits that food wasn’t always on her radar. It wasn’t until she moved to London, forced to cook her own food, that she began experimenting with produce and ingredients.

“I don’t really come from a foodie family”, she explains. “My mum doesn’t even really cook. We ate mostly ready meals and frozen food and there were so many things I didn’t enjoy. I was a really fussy eater”.

But mum needn’t be upset. Because Lily believes this is exactly why food is now such a big part of her life. “It was a strange journey. But it led me to be more interested in food as an adult. Suddenly, you’re cooking your own food, going to restaurants of your own choosing. And really exploring all the cultures and cuisines that big cities have to offer”.

“Now, ten years, later, I’ve realised I do really like mushrooms and hummus. I used to think hummus was so weird”, she jokes.


What exactly does PR stand for?

Having left school at 18 without pursuing a degree, Lily wasn’t immediately sure what it was she wanted to do. The self-titled “Blonde white girl” envisaged a future in PR. Even if she didn’t really know what it meant.

After a handful of internships, Lily landed a job with Universal Pictures. Determined to start from the bottom and work her way up the ladder.

“I really tried to enjoy it. But I absolutely hated it. The monotony, the commute. It was killing me”.

Lily flippantly mentions “an early mental breakdown”. Being at a total loss when realising that this previously hallowed path wasn’t anything like she expected.

“All my friends were at Uni doing what they wanted. And I hadn’t found my thing yet. It was causing me so much angst”.

But from these dark times, a light was emerging. “The only thing that bought me joy was getting home and cooking meals for all my flatmates. Food was something I was good at. I was cooking for people and they were wowed by what I was serving them”.


Just go for it

The story of falling into food and hospitality is a common one. And in many ways, the typical entrepreneurial journey. Fuelled by the eye-opening cultural exposure that moving into a big city creates.

But Lily has a drive and a level of motivation that is in no way typical. It’s evident in her passion and enthusiasm for everything she does.

A raw talent was emerging from increasingly “understanding flavour and how to make things taste good. It all stemmed from there. I started putting energy and time into [developing an idea] whilst still working a full time job”.

Lily spent some time on other food stalls initially, learning the ropes and getting to know the community.

It was the golden era of street food. With the barriers to entry - and the costs - being relatively low, whilst the market was still wide open for new concepts.

“I finally did a trial run in my back garden under a Gazebo. Inviting friends and getting them to fill in feedback sheets. I just wanted to practice as much as possible”.

With the product beginning to take shape, Lily jumped at the first opportunity to do her first event. And STAKEhaus was born. However she’s happy to admit, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“Every meal we sent out was freezing cold. And some people waited for 20 minutes”. But sure enough, future events followed and things began falling into place.

“I’ll be forever grateful to the people who supported SteakHaus in the early months. Because they allowed me to just get on with it. Get out there. And just do it”.

“Then I just quit my job and decided that this was what I wanted to do”.

From grilling to form filling

The business grew to a permanent location in Camden with Kerb, the launch of HENhaus - a sister Rotisserie concept - and a packed events calendar.

Lily went from doing a couple of markets a week to a seven day a week operation. With the staff, admin, and responsibility that comes with this. Increasingly splitting her time between the grill and her laptop but still loving every minute. This was the second steep learning curve in her burgeoning career as a food entrepreneur.

SteakHaus continued to go from strength to strength, HENhaus was offered a permanent spot at Streetfeast in Woolwich. And before she knew it, Lily’s thriving business celebrated its sixth birthday.

But with a sense that STAKEhaus had hit its peak - considering the proliferation of new entrants into the market and that six years is a phenomenal stretch for a street food business - lockdown was looming. Lily had her sights set on another sister business.

Green Red Meat

Talking to Lily, it’s easy to take her casual modesty in a happy-go-lucky kind of way. But there’s actually a real sense that she’s carefully considered, diligent, and detail-oriented. And like many creatives, she’s able to visualise something as it emerges from just a seed of an idea.

“I was hungry for something else”, Lily explains. “I was chatting with The Ethical Butcher guys about finding a buyer for their burger meat. Their steaks were selling out but they wanted to minimise waste by using as much of their animals as possible.

But as it turned out everyone’s loyalty with their existing suppliers - and the high regard in which they hold their recipes - meant that her search was unsuccessful. And after a few further conversations, a partnership emerged and GROUND was born.

“I was selling a lot of meat and was hearing more and more about the impact beef production has on the environment. I wanted to understand how I could make STAKEhaus better and more sustainable. There was definitely a part of me that felt guilty about this”.

Lily began researching regenerative agriculture. And discovered that if executed properly, cows can play a vital role in repairing the damage done not only by industrial farming practices. But by common approaches to farming, too.

“Cows and other livestock play a crucial role in the success of regenerative farming. And the practice is totally different to even pasture-fed cows. It’s part of an entire system. The beef needs the farmer and the farm needs the cattle.

“The cows serve a purpose. Bashing in poop, pee, and seeds into the soil. This has untold benefits for the soil”.

Beginning a conversation

GROUND will trade from their freshly-kitted out van, and at food markets across the UK. And Lily and the team are shortly releasing their “Covid-proof” burger kits.

But their focus is ultimately on creating a retail product that fills a gap in the market between existing meat and meat-alternative burgers. Promoting regenerative agriculture and its benefits to the consumer and the planet.

Turning to our friends and collaborators at Dapple Studio, they began work on the brand’s narrative and visual identity.

“The brand needed to be fun and accessible, but above all, a real conversation starter,” says Lily. “We wanted to help the regenerative farming cycle to make sense”.

GROUND carries a strong message and wears its principles on its sleeve. But this is precisely the point.

This article from this month’s The Rebel Post covers the topic in more detail, as it vies for attention with Veganuary, in the form of the now-controversial Regenuary. And GROUND deserves to be at the heart of the discussion.

“We want to make choice easier, provide better value, and communicate that there are options out there that don’t have the negative impacts customers are used to hearing about”.

But Lily isn’t delusional about the fact that people eat too much meat. “We’re offering an option where customers can understand all the conditions surrounding how what they eat was produced. And make an informed choice from there.

“Regenuary isn’t about excluding people from doing the vegan things. Rather asking people to generally look where your food comes from. But it’s unrealistic to expect the world to turn vegan any time soon. So while in that space, why can’t we provide a product that’s filling the gap?”

With GROUND, Lily is aiming for a proper standard of zero waste and carbon neutrality. But is realistic about growing into those aspirations.

For now, happy that the fledgling business is pushing an agenda out there that’s been building. And bringing into people’s eye view.

“It seems obvious if you’re in the industry. But the wider public isn’t aware. Mainstream food isn’t pointed towards carbon emissions or its environmental impact.

“You can’t expect someone who’s struggling to feed their children to start questioning what food they’re buying. Or buying more expensive produce because it’s coming from the UK. Let alone from regenerative farms.

“What we can do is start influencing those who are in the middle and have the ability to buy better. Then hopefully things trickle down from there”.

A controversial but bright future

Lily’s enthusiasm and energy are infectious. And she’s clearly completely committed to her business and the wider cause. Her “you have to start somewhere” attitude is laudable. And whilst she’s focused on the pursuit of perfection, it has never stopped her from going out and doing things.

“I believe you’re better off just going for it. And apologising afterward”.

GROUND is a new business championing a little-known approach to an industry mired in misinformation and complexity. And controversy and virulence will inevitably follow.

But something tells us that Lily will relish the challenges. And that the business she’s backing with her heart and soul will do very well in the process.


Follow GROUND’s journey at @greenredmeat