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We take our gear seriously at F&S, whether it be for hunting, fishing, or camping. Our selections are based on many factors, like quality, price, and purpose—just to name a few. But sometimes there’s more to a fishing jacket or hunting knife than what you see.

Through my years of covering the best outdoor gear, I’ve discovered some really cool brands with some really cool stories doing some really cool things. In our new “Behind the Brand” interview series, we are telling those stories through the words of the founders themselves.

It’s not a secret that we’re big fans of eating what you hunt or what you catch. But we also know there are times when nothing beats a perfectly cooked ribeye or a juicy burger fresh from the grill. And for those moments, let us introduce you to Chris Carter and James Peisker. They’re the men behind Porter Road, a Nashville-based meat delivery service.

As trained chefs and now culinary entrepreneurs, Chris and James know more than a thing or two about good meat. We sat down with the duo to hear the story of how they grew Porter Road from a little butcher shop in Tennessee to a nationwide brand delivering high quality meat across the country. They also shared their favorite cuts, from the humble ground beef to the exotic Vacio. Warning: Don’t read this if you’re hungry.

Field & Stream: So let’s start from the very very beginning. How did you two even end up in business together?

It’s a fun story. James and I both come from chef backgrounds. I grew up in Nashville, James grew up in St. Louis. We both went to culinary school. I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona and James went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

I eventually moved back to Nashville and started working at Capitol Grille in the Hermitage Hotel. I had been there for almost two years when James came and joined us on the line working in the kitchen. Three days later, I asked James to quit our jobs and go open a restaurant together.

Three days?! How did that happen?

What was so compelling were the conversations we had really in the first couple hours of knowing one another. Those conversations are actually still the core values of Porter Road today. They were focused around transparency, about educating the consumer on knowing and understanding where your food comes from and not having this emotional detachment to every meal you have.

Okay, so you both quit. Then what?

It was about three months later that they finally let us quit, and we set off to open a restaurant. We went down the path of running a catering company trying to raise money for it. The restaurant’s name was going to be E.L.E (Everybody Loves Everybody). It was going to be hyper local, where every single ingredient would be seasonal and sourced locally and have a story.

That sent us out talking to a lot of farmers in our region that all seemed to have the same issues. James and I just kept on asking the question, why can’t we buy your meat fresh? There was just no system built to support those small local farmers.

So one night while we were on my front porch drinking whiskey, James and I pivoted pretty heavily. We said, you know what, there’s enough good restaurants out there, we’ll open a butcher shop. The next morning we got back to the log cabin, ripped down all of our plans, and started working through a new business plan.

Wow, that’s a big shift. How did you go from almost-restaurant to opening a butcher shop?

We opened the doors to Porter Butcher in East Nashville in 2011 with $500 in our bank account, a taste for meat, and a hope and dream that we’d make it. We learned a lot of it along the way.

As the shop continued to grow, we continued to educate ourselves. And what we soon learned was we wanted more transparency. We wanted more understanding of the meat we were getting and how it was raised. You want to believe everybody’s good. You want to believe every farmer is doing what they say they’re doing. But the fact is there’s lots of smoke and mirrors even in smaller producer circles.

So what did you do next?

In 2014, Chris and I—two kids raised in urban settings—went out slaughterhouse shopping. We found a slaughterhouse in Princeton, Kentucky that we bought and started operating it in 2015. That gave us more transparency.

It made us understand who we were sourcing from and how the animals looked alive, which then gave us more education and more drive to say “how do we make an impact in a much more meaningful and larger way?” That has led us to farmers who raise animals that live a more natural life without hormones and antibiotics. They’re able to forage and run around.

How did you go from butcher shop and slaughterhouse to what you are today?

James and I are always trying to be bigger and to do more to further support our farmers and provide more people with the best meat in the world.

In 2017, we wanted to figure out how to reach as many people as possible. We were thinking about a spoke-and-hub model of slaughterhouses surrounded by brick-and-mortar butcher shops. What made us run away from that idea really quickly was the idea of managing that many managers and shops. That would have been a nightmare.

We knew we could do something different than what other meat delivery services were already doing.

We knew we could go direct to consumer out of our facility, truly working hand in hand with our farmers and touching our product every step of the way. Plus, we could offer a la carte shopping instead of just subscription or bulk ordering. We’d give people the ability to shop like you just stepped in the doors of a butcher shop.

How did you come up with the name Porter Road?

The log cabin where we were drinking whiskey was on Porter Road and the first butcher shop we were going to open was on Porter Road. But the landlord was out of her mind so we ended up with a butcher shop on Gallatin Road in East Nashville.

We had already been at the farmer’s market that summer teasing the name Porter Road. When we ended up on Gallatin, we decided not to change it. We figured everybody’s got their version of a Porter Road in their town or city.

What are your favorite Porter Road products?

I’d like to preface it by saying every single product we sell is special and unique in its own way. It’s like naming your favorite child. The reason I say that is because right now it’s warm and I’ve been grilling and smoking outside. But if it’s cold and winter, I want to have a braise going all day. I want those rich deep dinners.

Ground Beef

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A few months ago, I ran out of ground beef at my house and I really wanted tacos. So I went to our grocery store and bought the organic grass-fed beef. And I had a really miserable experience. It was real watery and moist and all this gray bubbly liquid came out. That doesn’t happen with Porter Road ground beef. You just get delicious flavor.

Pork Chops

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We raise our hogs out in pasture and woods. They have this crazy fat cap that we trim down, but we leave a good amount of it on. Once that gets all crunchy and crispy and delicious, it’s like a crackle one on top of the pork chop. Definitely one of my favorites.

Vacio

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In keeping with the butcher shop feel, we started a cut-to-order program and the first was this Argentinian cut called Vacio. It’s a combination of the bavette steak, flank steak, and skirt steak. You slow roast it over coals for like 5 to 8 hours and it’s just an experience. The flavor is so rich and then all of that outside fat becomes these little beef crackers.

Ribeye

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The ribeye is hands-down always my go-to steak. It’s so hard to beat it. It’s fatty, it’s rich and it’s just a perfect steak for me. Not every ribeye is the same. I could lay out 10 steaks and guarantee I could tell which one was Porter Road. That’s a very honest statement.

Bratwurst

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Every time I eat it, I am still blown away by our bratwurst. When I eat our bratwurst, it literally makes the hair on my arms stand up.

Hot Dogs

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We had tacos on Friday night with a room full of kids who were all crushing them. Then they started chanting hot dogs in the middle of eating tacos. And I had to go and cook two packs.

Because our hot dogs are honestly a whole new experience and not what you think of when you think of hot dogs.

Snack Sticks

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Our snack stick is made of real natural ingredients for the most flavorful taste. We’re very proud of it.

Bone Broth

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Our bone broth is the most nutrient-dense bone broth you will ever have. It’s what Chris and I learned week one in culinary school. It’s this big recipe with roasted beef bones, vegetables, herbs, spices, and water cooked for 24 hours to get all of the intense flavor.

What makes Porter Road different than other meat delivery services out there?

At the end of the day, Chris and I are chefs with the pursuit of flavor. It’s what has always driven us. We want to make sure every single thing we’re doing tastes the best. We dry age all of our beef to make sure everything—even the ground beef we use for a burger or a hot dog—has that deep flavor. It’s unmatched.

It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you care about the land, the well-being of the animals, or fair wages for farmers and jobs for rural communities. Even if you don’t even care about any of that stuff, you care about the highest quality product you could possibly eat and the flavor and the experience that comes with that. Anybody with teeth and a tongue wants that experience.

One of our favorite things to hear is, oh my God, what did you do to this? And all we’ve done is put salt and pepper on it. People realize that is what it’s supposed to taste like. It’s truly life-changing. They say, now you’ve ruined me for all other meat.

What’s next for Porter Road in 2024?

Our big push this year is scaling our business. We work really hard, like tirelessly hard. We’re exhausted but we have new energy to build infrastructure and foundation inside of our company in order to be able to scale and grow sustainably. Our goal as a company right now is to be 1% of the $314 billion meat industry. I feel that we are very well set to do that, and the theme of what we’re doing is decentralizing the industry.

Any final thoughts?

To sum it up, James and I approach everything with a shitload of passion. We figure it out along the way. We start a fire, throw the meat on it and then just figure it out. At the end of the day, I’m a guy who owns a meat company and I think people should eat less meat and a higher quality meat. The only way we’re going to continue to be able to survive and thrive on this planet is if we become more conscious about the proteins we are consuming.

As we said before, the meat’s on the grill and we’re figuring it out.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.