Between 200 and 250 Iowa farmers are raising a product that travels to both coasts for consumption: pork raised specifically for Niman Ranch, one of the most well-known meat brands in the United States.
Niman Ranch meats are sold to thousands of restaurants and retailers, including Panera, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods nationwide. Iowa restaurants/retailers using Niman Ranch products are located in Des Moines, Iowa City, Coralville and Mt. Vernon.
While most of the brand’s beef and lamb are raised in the Western U.S., close to Niman's California headquartered, Niman’s pork is produced by 500 farmers in the Midwest; more than half of these farmers reside in Iowa. Between 50 and 60 of those farmers reside in north central Iowa. Niman Ranch producers market about 3,000 hogs each week.
Phil Kramer, Niman pork representative in north central Iowa, says that both consumers and pork producers benefit from the Niman Ranch brand. “The premise behind Niman Ranch is that it pays to raise animals humanely, in natural conditions, without added hormones and antibiotics,” he says.
Kramer says that consumers benefit from these practices because:
- The quality of the meat is the biggest draw. Chefs and consumers both agree that the meat is outstanding. For example, chef George Formaro (Centro, Des Moines) says this about Niman Ranch pork on the Niman Ranch Web site, “I noticed the flavor immediately. It was unlike anything I'd had before.” And his words on Niman Ranch beef, “I say it tastes beefier than beef.”
- It is morally right that animals are raised humanely. Niman Ranch farmers must adhere to the Animal Welfare Institute’s humane husbandry standards including housing, bedding, transportation, weaning, diet and more.
- Niman Ranch won't purchase hogs given antibiotics or hormones. This may have positive health implications for humans.
- By purchasing Niman Ranch products, consumers are supporting small family farms. Niman Ranch farms must be family owned, own their own hogs and provide the majority of labor for their farm.
- It is possible to track the meat purchased back to an individual farmer. Each loin carries a tag that shows the tattoo number of the farm from which it came. This allows the consumer to trace the loin back to the farmer.
Kramer also says that Niman Ranch farmers benefit:
- There is a premium price paid to farmers for this specialty product. Prices vary through the seasons (higher in the summer months) and there is also a set floor price.
- They remain independent and continue to own their livestock.
- Farmers can choose from complete farrow-to-finish, farrow-to-wean or wean-to-finish operations.
- Producers receive assistance in developing the appropriate genetics needed.
- Farmers can take pride in knowing that they are producing a safe, healthful product under ideal conditions.
For more information
- Kramer says that Niman Ranch is seeking additional pork producers. Contact Phil at 641/579-6594 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Learn more about Niman Ranch, including details of the company's humane practices, how to purchase Niman Ranch meats and to “meet” farmers and chefs.