Bill Niman Boycotts Niman Ranch

Company Founder Rejects New Welfare and Sustainability Standards
Whether a little meat in the diet is sustainable, or whether a vegetarian world is best, meat eating remains a core point of contention among TreeHuggers. For those of us who do indulge occasionally, Niman Ranch has long been a favored supplier of more natural, and more humanely raised, meat. It's made the cut of TreeHugger and Domino's green list, and it's been a core part of fast food chain Chipotle's sustainability claims for years. But now one TreeHugging carnivore at least is saying no to Niman. His name? Bill Niman.
You see it appears that after nearly 30 years in business, Bill Niman was finally forced to sell his share of the business to the company's chief investor, Chicago-based Natural Food Holdings LLC to avoid bankruptcy. But it's not just about the money. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Niman is arguing that Niman Ranch's core priciples have been compromised under Natural Food Holding's management, and he's no longer willing to eat the company's products:

Niman also battled with the new management over the use of antimicrobials, drugs that kill bacteria. While the substances are not classified by the USDA as an antibiotic, Niman says they work in the same way and are not natural. Under his leadership, they were never used.

"The bottom line on this point is that we once had the strictest feed standards in the industry as well as the highest humane animal treatment protocols," Niman angrily wrote the board in a 2007 memo. "Our standards were always based on several major concerns including: the health and well-being of the animal, human health and the environment."

But Swain disagrees. "It is our opinion and the opinion of leading experts, that it is better animal husbandry to use them (antimicrobials), than not to use them."

Other issues between Niman and Natural Food Holdings LLC included the length of journeys to slaughter that cattle had to endure, and the closing of company owned feedlots. But Niman also admits he may have made mistakes - he says he consciously chose to defer profitability in exchange for building the brand and ensuring the highest quality, most humane meats possible - but he may have deferred that profitability a little too long.

Either way, it looks like Niman Ranch will never be the same again - but Bill is not looking back, nor is he giving in to the vegetarian lobby. He's started a new venture with his wife raising turkeys. Watch this space.

more on meat eating, vegetarianism and the environment
Emeril Green Episode: Meat Me Half Way
Foodprint: The Surprising Impact of a Little Meat
From the Forums: A Vegetarian World?
On Moving Toward Vegetarianism
Less Meat=Less Heat
Making the Meat Go Further: Your Ideas for Reduced Consumption

The River Cottage Meat Book: For Carnivores with a Conscience
Green Glossary: Meat Guzzler

Tags: Agriculture | Animals | Antibiotics | Beef | Food Safety | United States