Spotlight on Niman Ranch
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Niman Ranch this week to highlight their commitment to offering all-natural meats raised by small family farmers committed to sustainable and humane practices. We all know that words like “natural” and “sustainable” can be applied to foods without any real, tangible, meaningful standards to back them up. In fact, the USDA legally allows the use of the word “natural” on meat and poultry despite the fact that the term isn’t currently well-defined or meaningful, rendering it a deceptive marketing ploy rather than a clear indication of how a meat or poultry product was raised or processed. That’s why we love Niman Ranch. When they throw around words like “natural’, “sustainable”, and “humane”, it actually means something. Here’s how they back it up:
At Niman Ranch our all-natural meats are:
- Raised on more than 700 small sustainable family farms and ranches
- Raised according to the most humane animal handling protocols in the industry
- Raised by farmers who adhere to sustainable agricultural practices.
- Never given antibiotics or hormones – ever.
- Never fed animal by-products – ever.
What do we mean when we say our animals are raised humanely?
All Niman Ranch livestock are humanely raised according to the strictest animal handling protocols. These protocols were written based on the recommendations of animal handling expert Dr. Temple Grandin. Our independent family farmers are required to raise their livestock outdoors or in deeply bedded pens. Their animals have continual access to food and water and spend their entire lives with their litter mates. This allows the animals to express their natural instinctive behaviors and form healthy social groups. Gestation crates and farrowing crates are strictly prohibited.
What does sustainability mean to us?
Sustainability is at the core of our Raised With Care philosophy. We believe that sustainable agriculture is best described as livestock raising and production practices which balance current resource demands without compromising the future of the resources from an environmental, economic, and human perspective. We realize that a sustainable system is not successful unless we also maintain the economic health of all our farmers and ranchers, so our sustainability practices incorporate this understanding into what we call our Top 10 Sustainability Best Practices:
- Pay farmers a premium in accordance to our strict raising protocols
- Establish a floor price for our farmers tied to the cost of inputs of feed and fuel
- Promote agricultural biodiversity by using a wide range of breeds uniquely suited to the specific natural environments in which they are raised
- Practice genetic diversity to keep breeds healthy over generations
- Maintain livestock density well below conventional industry standards to prevent overburdening the land
- Raise livestock in geographies where feed is locally available to reduce the carbon footprint associated with feed transport
- Mitigate soil erosion and/or loss through: maintaining pasture with coverage for livestock, crop rotation, rotational grazing and responsible waste/manure management.
- Prohibit the use of concentrated liquid manure systems. Manure is managed as a beneficial resource and is never allowed to negatively impact the local environment.
- Use buffer strips and grassed waterways
- Provide a robust and growing marketplace for our farmers and ranchers livestock
Do animals need antibiotics?
Since our animals are not raised in crowded, unsanitary or stressful conditions, the need for antibiotics to treat sick animals is very low. Our animals never receive antibiotics – ever.
What if an animal gets sick?
Occasionally, one of the animals raised for us becomes sick and cannot get well without antibiotics. Our animal welfare protocols allow for the animal to be treated, but then removed from the Niman Ranch program. It is never sold as Niman Ranch meat.
How can I be sure that all Niman Ranch farmers and ranchers adhere to the protocols?
We follow a 3-step process to ensure full compliance with our strict protocols:
- All our farmers and ranchers regularly complete affidavits agreeing to follow all of our protocols.
- We personally inspect each farm before it is accepted into our program, to make sure it meets our standards.
- Our field agents, located throughout the country, regularly visit and inspect the farms and ranches in our network. We have more field agents than we have sales people.
The farmers and ranchers within our community are true believers in sustainable agriculture and share in our values and vision. They are practicing traditional farming methods because they understand that by raising livestock humanely and sustainably, they will leave an agricultural legacy, ultimately preserving the land for future generations.
Who are the farmers and ranchers of the Niman Ranch community?
Check out this great video below to hear from a sampling of the wonderful farmers and ranchers that are committed to raising animals the Niman Ranch way. You can also see more videos, photos, and read full bios on our webpage.