RACHEL BELLE

Can a fried chicken chain help slow climate change? A new Seattle restaurant thinks so

Oct 14, 2022, 5:07 AM
pasture raised chicken...
(Photo courtesy of Mt. Joy)
(Photo courtesy of Mt. Joy)

Plant-based burgers have been the environmental flavor-of-the-month for a few years now, but a new Seattle venture called Mt. Joy knows people won’t stop eating meat, and wants to serve real food responsibly.

“What we’re building is a restaurant that cares deeply, not only about the environment but also about all of the animals who are involved and all the people who are involved in getting the food from the field to the fork,” said Mt. Joy co-founder Robbie Cape.

Mt. Joy is a fast-casual fried chicken sandwich restaurant with a climate-smart mission and it’s debuting its first pop-up this weekend.

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“All of our chicken comes from local, pasture-raised farms that are raising their chickens out in the open,” said Cape. “All of our ingredients come from within 500 miles.”

Plenty of restaurants serve locally grown produce and meats, but Mt. Joy has a loftier goal to expand into a nationwide chain with hundreds or thousands of locations. Before Mt. Joy, Cape was CEO and co-founder of several successful tech companies, and he’s teamed up with Seattle chef Ethan Stowell, owner of 20 local restaurants, and founding farmer Grant Jones, owner of Hungry Hollow Farm, a pasture-raised poultry farm in Shelton.

Jones said right now, there aren’t enough small farms in western Washington to supply a chain of fried chicken restaurants.

“It’s going to take more farmers,” said Jones. “At our farm, we’re producing anywhere from 3,000 and 5,000 chickens a year and we’re working with about five other local farms to help provide chickens for Mt. Joy. That might get us to one or two [stores] and then we’re going to need more farmers and we’re going to need those farmers to scale up. It’s more developed in different parts of the country. Interestingly, western Washington doesn’t have a very developed pastured meat market.”

Jones has found that sourcing all local ingredients for their fried chicken sandwiches and fries can be a challenge.

“It’s not even possible with some ingredients with the current supply chains,” said Jones. “All of our chickens, for the first popup, are within 100 miles. We’ve got the bun, which is produced locally here in Seattle. We’re sourcing our produce from within the state or the Pacific Northwest. Our mayo is produced here in south Seattle. Our ketchup and mustard come from Portland. It’s really fun, I’m a supply chain geek, so I get to go in and ask, ‘What farm grew your tomatoes for the ketchup?’ It’s a question a lot of these vendors have never been asked.”

Another part of Mt. Joy’s mission is to work with farmers who use regenerative agriculture, an age-old practice that’s been abandoned by modern, large-scale, commercial farming. Farming this way keeps the soil healthy, full of nutrients and sequesters carbon, among many other environmental and health benefits.

They also plan to utilize the whole bird, not just the breasts and the thighs for sandwiches.

“We’ve talked about doing popcorn chicken with the drumsticks, chicken soup with the frames and the bones of the chicken, chicken organs can be used as well,” said Jones. “So we want to use the entire bird and that’s critical to the model. Both to support the farmers, to give them the price they need, and to support our economics.”

Mt. Joy’s pop-up will take place October 14, 4 to 9 p.m., and October 15-16, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Capitol Hill Tavolàta at 501 E Pike Street.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal.” Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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Can a fried chicken chain help slow climate change? A new Seattle restaurant thinks so