Fast Company Names Niman Ranch One of World’s Most Innovative Companies
Premium natural meat brand Niman Ranch has been named to Fast Company’s prestigious list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. Fast Company recognized Niman Ranch for “using its industry sway to ensure livestock are humanely treated” through advocacy on California’s Proposition 12, the country’s strongest law to improve farm animal living conditions and creating a business model that builds opportunities for small, sustainable family farms.
Fast Company’s annual list honors companies breaking the mold in their respective industries. This year’s list highlights the businesses at the forefront of their respective industries, paving the way for the innovations of tomorrow. With a model that includes a direct line of communication from the farm to the C-Suite, Niman Ranch has proven that a business can do well while doing good.
“Niman Ranch receiving an award for innovation can be surprising at first glance,” said Chris Oliviero, Niman Ranch’s General Manager. “In many ways, we are quite traditional with our farmers using tried and true practices passed down over generations. On the other hand, Niman Ranch is truly innovative, building a whole new playbook on how to run a meat company grounded in its values.”
Niman Ranch’s commitment to category disruption, product innovation and mission-driven program development sets itself apart in the industry. With a network of hundreds of small and mid-size independent family farmers and ranchers across the country, Niman Ranch supplies 100 percent Certified Humane meats to major restaurant chains including Chipotle and Shake Shack, values-driven e-commerce brands like ButcherBox, award-winning chefs and specialty grocers. Throughout its decades in business, Niman Ranch has built a well-deserved reputation of offering exceptional meats by partnering with farmers who are paid a premium to raise livestock outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, without antibiotics, hormones or crates.
“The US food production and consumption system has been flawed for many years, contributing to inhumane animal welfare practices while embroiling farmers in a vicious cycle of debt and farming methods that pollute the air and water and squeeze out independent family farms,” said Danielle Nierenberg, a longtime advisor to Niman Ranch and Co-Founder of Food Tank, a leading organization advocating for a more sustainable and equitable food system. “Niman Ranch has shown a better way is possible by building a thriving business using an innovative model that is fair to farmers, treats animals with respect, revitalizes rural agricultural communities and stewards the environment.”
A recent economic impact analysis of the Niman Ranch pork program found the brand offers an outsized positive impact in rural communities. Conducted by respected regional economist David Swenson, the study found that Niman Ranch generates 50 percent more economic value for the local economy and more than 150 percent more jobs than the conventional hog industry, per 100,000 pigs marketed. This analysis is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak trend with independent family farmers disappearing from the landscape and replaced with industrial-scale confinement operations. Between 1992 and today the number of sows—mother pigs—in Iowa increased by 50 percent, while the number of hog farmers declined 80 percent.
Niman Ranch continues to increase its positive impact by driving demand through innovation, the constant pursuit of best-in-class products and authentic support for its farmer network. This spring, Niman Ranch will be debuting a new Iberian Duroc Pork program utilizing exclusive genetics sourced from the Iberian Peninsula that delivers distinctive flavor unparalleled in the industry. Additionally, the farmer-focused brand recently launched two new grant programs—a Regenerative Agriculture Grant and a Gilt Grant—to help young farmers get started by offsetting the costs of adopting new sustainable farming practices and investing in breeding stock.
“I am humbled and grateful for this recognition from Fast Company and share it on behalf of my fellow farmers in the Niman Ranch network,” said Paul Willis, Niman Ranch’s founding hog farmer. “Since day one, we’ve always had to think outside the box because our model was so different than the norm. This outsider’s perspective and commitment to our founding values still permeates the company today and is essential to our success.”