On March 16-17, Edible Communities hosted its Edible Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. The weekend was full of great speakers, panels and discussions, including an interview of our very own Paul Willis. The Institute touched on many aspects of our food system – from farming through consumption. Here are a few of the highlights of the two-day event:
Saturday morning started off with a bang with a presentation from the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU Professor and best-selling author. A dynamic speaker and personality, Dr. Nestle spoke about the increase in the American population’s consumption habits since 1980 and how advertising can affect our perception. She mentioned that as a country, we are consuming more calories per day and our portion sizes have increased. Additionally, she spoke about how the deregulation of health claims has allowed advertisers to target children more effectively. Dr. Nestle advocates social responsibility and is currently writing a new book about the food system for kids.
We have to brag. This month, Niman Ranch executive chef and owner of Culinary Craft Andrew Hunter will begin shooting the premiere season of a new reality TV show, Supermarket Superstar, coming soon on Lifetime Network. Supermarket Superstar is a reality competition series from the creators of Project Runway and Undercover Boss that searches America for today’s homegrown recipes that could become tomorrow’s bestselling supermarket brands.
In each episode, competitors face off in the Superstar Kitchen to see if their recipe has what it takes. The winner of each week’s challenge receives an investment in their product and the chance to compete in the Season Finale, where one grand prize winner will have their product introduced to millions of customers nationwide on the shelves of a major grocery store.
Supermarket Superstar is the first show of its kind to feature R&D and the product commercialization process for retail food products. The format features consumer cooks as contestants who have a family recipe or product that should be in supermarkets.
As the R&D mentor, Andrew is coaching the contestants on-camera through the development process. The host is Stacy Keibler and the Superstar Panel of Experts includes Michael Chiarello, Chris Cornyn and Debbi Fields.
Supermarket Superstar is a very exciting endeavor for the R&D segment of the industry and its first primetime feature on a major television network. We are thrilled for Andrew!
The Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner provides an opportunity for our featured chefs and special guests to gain a deeper understanding of what traditional, sustainable and humane family farming looks like by visiting us here at Willis Farms in Thornton, Iowa.
Every year we provide a farm tour and this year it was more special for me than ever before as I worked side-by-side with my daughter, Sophia, many good friends and family members including some extra help from a crew of friends from out-of -town. Pete Marczyk and his entourage from Marczyk Fine Foods who had traveled all the way from Denver, Colorado, to help us prepare the outdoor dinner.
There are many reasons why Niman Ranch meat is better than the rest- how we raise our animals is one of them. How our animals are raised directly impacts the quality and taste of Niman Ranch meat.
The chefs that serve Niman Ranch meats often like to see where and how the animal is raised. Bringing chefs to the farms and ranches to meet the farmers in person gives them the opportunity to see first hand how humane animal care and sustainable farming practices impact the meat that ends up their menus. Several times a year, we are able to make that happen.
A few weeks ago a small group visited the Willis Ranch in Laketown Utah, to see how Niman Ranch lamb is raised. We began the tour at the Willis’ fall grazing ground located in the small corner between Utah’s Bear Lake and the Idaho and Wyoming borders. Here we learned about the work Clark Willis spearheaded on rangeland restoration. His work opened up the grazing land, which positively impacted the endangered Sage Grouse by providing an optimum habitat for breeding.
Paul Willis, Niman Ranch Pork Company founder and manager, was honored at the 2012 Chefs Collaborate Summit with the Pathfinder Sustainability Award. The award recognizes a visionary working in the greater food community who has been a catalyst for positive change within the food system through efforts that go beyond the kitchen.
Niman Ranch celebrated its more than 550 U.S. family hog farmers and awarded 18 Next Generation Scholarships last weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, at its 14th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. Niman Ranch established the Next Generation Scholarship Fund in 2006 to preserve the integrity of U.S. family farms by supporting the children of rural communities who wish to attend college and pursue an education focusing on sustainable or environmental practices and who intend to return to the family farm upon graduation.
As the U.S. family farm disappears, we are proud of our young Niman Ranch farmers. They are committed to raising hogs sustainably and humanely while continuing the traditional farming practices handed down by their parents and grandparents. Meet Michael Mardesen, 20 year old from Iowa and past recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship.
Americans love their hotdogs. So much so, July has been declared National Hot Dog Month. During hotdog season- Memorial Day through Labor Day- Americans consume nearly 7 billion hotdogs or 818 hotdogs every second. We top them with everything from the classics, to more exotic ingredients like Siracha and Sweet Onion Aioli and they grace the tables of backyard barbeques and family gatherings.
As you reach for a package of hot dogs, think about what is inside them. The fewer the ingredients the better. Look for a hot dog made from quality cuts of meat and check the label to make sure the livestock was never given added hormones or antibiotics. Not only will a high quality hot dog taste better, but you’ll feel good about what you’re feeding your family.
As you enjoy the summer, fire up the grill and cook an American favorite you can feel good about: All-Natural, Niman Ranch Fearless Franks.