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Meet the CEO who’s healing the planet one heirloom chicken at a time

For going beyond organic to actually restore the Earth, Cooks Venture founder Matthew Wadiak is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for 2020.

Meet the CEO who’s healing the planet one heirloom chicken at a time
[Illustration: André Gottschalk]

Cooks Venture, which launched last year, sells pasture-raised heirloom chickens, raised on 800 acres in Arkansas, through restaurants, its online store, and more than a thousand grocery stores. Unlike other heirloom breeds, though, Cooks Venture’s birds thrive on feed made from cover crops such as sorghum, which regenerative farmers grow as a way to increase the organic matter in their soil and sequester carbon. By creating a scalable market for these crops—poultry is the most popular meat in the U.S., with Americans consuming around 110 pounds per capita every year—Matthew Wadiak, who built relationships with dozens of organic farms as the cofounder of Blue Apron (he has since left the company), is proving regenerative practices can be good business and also replenish the earth. “Our best shot at creating a transformational system is to represent it ourselves,” he says. Plus, he insists, a cover-crop-based diet makes for better chicken flavor. “At the end of the day,” he says, “I’m a chef. Good food comes from good soil, good biodiversity, and good farming practices. They affect flavor in a really material way.”

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About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.

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