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Niman Ranch Founder Denounces Company's New Owners

Niman Ranch Founder Denounces Company's New Owners

Bill Niman created the Niman Ranch meat empire with his progressive farming techniques. Today, he won't even eat the company's products. The sustainable agriculture pioneer, who spearheaded the food movement to raise livestock sustainably, humanely, and naturally, is speaking out against the new owners of Niman Ranch, the brand he founded more than 30 years ago. Last month, the company was bought out by Natural Food Holdings, its chief investor since 2006 — and, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, its founder believes that its meat program has already changed in fundamental ways.When he first founded Niman Ranch in 1977, Niman set the bar for ethical ranching standards by raising cattle on grass in a free-range setting, forbidding growth hormones, and using antibiotics only if animals grew sick. He now opposes many of the company's modifications, including use of antimicrobials, the closing of company-owned cattle feedlots, and the treatment of cattle in their journey to slaughter. In response, Niman Ranch's current CEO Jeff Swain defended his company's integrity:

I think idealism . . . has to be couched with practicality . . . The company-owned feedlot was sold in 2008 because it was not financially viable . . . We believe that our protocols are stronger, the auditing of the protocols more rigorous, and the current business model is more financially viable.

He also claims the company has turned its profitability around: the company is now making $7,000 a week, rather than losing $10,000. The article raises an even bigger question: whether sustainable agriculture — and brands founded on idealism in general — can sustain a profit themselves.

What do you think? Do you stand with Bill Niman, or Niman Ranch?


Join The Conversation
Iowafarmgirl Iowafarmgirl 8 years
I think the SF Chronicle did some selective editing. I don't know much about Niman beef, but here in Iowa, Niman Pork is the one bright spot in the pork industry - humanely raised outdoor hogs and genuine family farmers. The standards haven't changed. Bill Niman should be proud of what he has done for family farmers in our state. Check out this recent article from Feb's Successful Farming magazine. Here is the link
becoming-brina becoming-brina 8 years
I don't believe profits should ever come before ethics. I understand that there are gray areas and it's a difficult situation, but i don't think this falls into the "gray" category. I don't personally eat meat, but if someone does, they need to at least treat the animals with respect in life and in death. Profits are no excuse to abuse other living creatures.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
this is a gray area - and that's never a fun thing. i think that based on principle, the idea of sustainable and humane treatment is something that should be successful, but of course in the economy today, it's never that cut and dry. i wish that there was a way to turn a profit doing what you believe, but i guess that's why the guy sold his ranch, because he couldn't do that and now the owners are.
ellenp1214 ellenp1214 8 years
i'm definitely with Bill Niman! way to go for standing up for what you believe in. the way our country produces meat is terrible, for the animals, our health and the environment. it's totally not sustainable. i personally think that if it can't be profitable the right way then maybe they should scale down.
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
Yeah, I've kinda been off the brand since he left (because when he did, he explained all this and how it no longer cared for the welfare of the animals). Now I just buy my meats from the local faremer's market
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 8 years
so basically they say a profit is better then ethics?
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