Get to know... Roy Cox, seller of grass-fed, organic beef

Photo of Justin Papp

WESTPORT — In Rio de Janeiro, winter temperatures don’t usually dip below 65 degrees.

Roy Cox, a longtime Rio resident whose ancestors came to the northeastern Brazilian state Bahia in the early 20th Century from England to built the country’s railroad, had never owned a down jacket or driven through wintry conditions or shoveled his driveway. When Cox moved with his wife and two daughters to Fairfield from Brazil’s second largest city in June, the warm, Northeast summer lured him into a false sense of security.

“I was at the beach, I was riding my bike,” Cox said.

Then the cold came, driving Cox — and potential customers of the recently-opened M.EAT Organic Beef & Provisions where he is the general manager — indoors.

“Christmas week and New Year’s week was very good, but maybe because of the weather these days, it’s a little bit slower,” Cox said, from his storefront on Church Lane in the Bedford Square development.

Cox opened M.EAT — a butcher shop and burger bar specializing in South American grass-fed, organic beef — with his business partners, Beto Esteves and Ryan Kwang, who are based in California, and Rodrigo and Max Echeverrigaray, who are based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Cox had previously worked with Esteves, who, with Kwang, is working to grow the brand. The brothers, Rodrigo and Max, in Uruguay, are in charge of buying beef from their home country, where cattle is a chief export.

“We are importing our beef from Uruguay because they are the first in the world to have a complete, full tracking of the creation. They control everything, including the soil,” Cox said.

According to Cox, every cut of meat comes from cattle — either Angus or Hereford — with a profile.

“Americans raise this kind of cattle, but the difference is how they’re fed. Most are grain fed in America,” Cox explained.

Cox and his partners know whether the animal was male or female, where it grew up, what it was fed, and at what age it was slaughtered — thanks to a government-run food traceability system that is the first of its kind in the world.

Cox and his partners also import from New Zealand and Australia, where similar systems have emerged, and they hope to add lamb to their menu once they find a good source.

Once beef is selected in Uruguay, it’s shipped via boat to Philadelphia, and then stored in a refrigerated warehouse in New Jersey. When the Westport location needs more supply, they send a van down to pick some up.

The trip from Uruguay to Westport, Cox said, usually takes about 25 days, during which time the beef is aged to the point that it is ready to sell.

In addition to cuts of the marbled Hereford and Angus beef, M.EAT also has a fresh-ground burger bar, which offers beef patties ranging from less to more fatty that can also be mixed with fresh vegetables. As with their other products, the patties are sold to be cooked at home as the store does not have a grill.

“People think that we sell burgers to be eaten here. We just prepare the blend,” Cox said.

As the Westport arm of the operation, Cox — who was most recently vice president of operations at Outback Steakhouse and previously worked for McDonalds’ corporate — is trying to build the M.EAT brand locally. He and his partners have hopes of opening more stores, though locations have not yet been chosen. M.EAT also provides beef to local restaurants like Amis Trattoria, Spotted Horse Tavern and Tavern on Main, and makes deliveries locally.

Cox is also working to become adapt to his new lifestyle in the Northeast.

“Now I’m trying to adjust to a small town. I like it because it’s safe, it’s a good environment. We have very nice customers. I’m enjoying it,” Cox said.

“It’s a big difference We just came from Rio. Rio has like six million people. Fairfield is like 60,000 people. In Fairfield I think I live in the highest building in the city — I live on the fourth floor, the building has five floors,” he said with a laugh.; @justinjpapp1