Frequently Asked Questions
Does Niman Ranch use genetically modified (GMO) feeds?
Unfortunately the use of GMOs is now prevalent in the U.S. Cross-contamination of non-GMO fields due to wind drift from genetically modified crops does sometimes occur. While we make every effort to keep GMO material out of our feeds, we cannot guarantee that our feeds are 100% free of GMOs.
You mention no confinement, is that what a gestation crate is used for?
Yes, gestation crates are used in confinement hog farming. Also known as a sow stall, they are metal enclosures, approximately 7 foot by 2 foot. The female pig is confined to this crate, in which she cannot turn around, for virtually her entire life of repeated impregnation. Renowned animal wellness scientist Dr. Temple Grandin, who provided her guidance in the creation of our protocols says:
“We’ve got to treat animals right and gestation stalls have got to go. Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.”
At Niman Ranch we never, ever use gestation crates or stalls.
How can I be sure that all Niman Ranch farmers and ranchers adhere to your protocols?
We take our protocols very seriously. To ensure that our partners are in full compliance we follow a 3-step process:
- All of our farmers and ranchers routinely complete affidavits agreeing to follow all of our protocols.
- We personally inspect each farm before it is accepted into our program to make sure it meets our standards.
- Our field agents, based across the country, regularly visit and inspect our farms and ranches.
It’s pretty telling that we have more field agents than we have sales people.
Being second- or third-generation farmers that understand the importance of traditional farming, our partners share our values. Most of our farmers and ranchers already raise animals humanely and need only make small adjustments to meet our protocols.
Why is a 100% vegetarian diet important?
This ties into our dedication to raise our animals as nature intended. Cows and sheep are strict herbivores – plant eaters. Since they only eat plants, their digestive and immune systems are unequipped to handle disease from infected animal tissue that may result from feed containing animal by-products. To ensure suppliers are providing only 100% vegetarian feeds to our ranchers, we conduct random testing on feed at least once a month.
What’s the problem with using growth hormones?
Growth hormones, which are outlawed in much of Europe, raise a number of environmental and human concerns. In the United States, federal regulations ban the use of growth-promoting hormones for hogs but not for cattle or sheep. Conventional cattle operations use hormones to artificially stimulate faster weight gain by increasing the growth of lean muscle and causing water retention. Our farmers and ranchers believe that animals should be allowed to mature naturally. Allowing them to do so produces meat that contains less water than conventionally produced meat. This is a big factor in the superior flavor of Niman Ranch meat.
How can Niman Ranch guarantee the lineage of its animals?
Our farmers and ranchers select breeds that produce healthy animals and have been proven to produce superior quality meat. All of our livestock can be traced from birth and are born, raised, and processed in the United States.
Why doesn't Niman Ranch produce grass fed beef?
When thinking about grass-fed beef, you may imagine pastoral settings, but in fact much of the cattle marketed today as "grass-fed" spend some of their life in feedlots or feed yards eating large amounts of hay, rice bran, almond hulls, and other assorted feeds that the USDA allows to be called "grass." Our cattle are raised on pasture and spend an entire grazing season with their mothers. We finish our beef on grain because doing so consistently produces the best quality meat.
Where is Niman Ranch? Where are your animals raised?
Niman Ranch is not just one ranch; we are a community network of more than 700 independent family farmers and ranchers throughout 28 states, primarily in the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. These regions provide the ideal environment for raising animals, as they’re capable of producing abundant grasses and grain. This is advantageous because proximity to where feed is produced limits our carbon footprint, as it limits the transportation of feed.
Why is it important to preserve independent family farms and ranches?
If family farms disappear, our rural communities and food supply will suffer. The livelihood of the family depends on the viability of the farm, and the stability of the farm’s local community depends on the success of its local businesses – including farms. Plus, family farms pass along agricultural legacies using traditional farming methods to humanely raise animals. It’s imperative to preserve this structure in order to support our family farmers and their communities while providing great tasting meat from well-cared for, healthy animals. It’s beneficial for our farmers, our communities, our animals and you.
What is sustainability?
We define sustainability as using agricultural methods to take care of the needs we have today without compromising the needs of tomorrow, from an environmental, economic and people perspective. We operate in a way that preserves resources and supports our independent family farmers today and for future generations. We rate our success of this system on the economic health of our farmers and ranchers. Environmental stewardship is one of the principles underlying everything we do to produce the best meat.
What is dry aged beef?
Much like fine wine and cheese, the flavor of beef deepens when it is aged. Our dry aged beef is kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for a minimum of 21 days. At the end of the aging period, the outer layer of the meat is trimmed to reveal a concentrated and tender piece of meat inside. Because of the moisture loss and the trimming, the beef can lose up to half of its weight, making it more expensive per pound than its counterparts that have not been dry aged.
How can I get Niman Ranch products in my local stores and restaurants?
Ask your local grocery store, restaurant or butcher to stock and use Niman Ranch products. These establishments value the desires and requests of their customers. Don’t be shy – let them know that you care about high quality meat raised humanely, sustainably and traditionally without antibiotics or added hormones.
Where can I purchase Niman Ranch products?
Niman Ranch products are available at fine grocers nationwide. Many chefs and restaurants also use our superior tasting meat in their establishments. Visit the Where to Buy page to find a location close to you!
Why are Niman Ranch products more expensive than other brands?
Our focus is on quality – everything else is secondary. Our traditional farming methods are more labor-intensive, and more land is needed for animals to be Raised with Care® – the Niman Ranch way. Even though it is more expensive to raise animals according to our strict protocols, we believe the results are worth it.
Why do Niman Ranch products taste better?
The exceptional flavor of our products is a result of raising breeds selected for superior marbling, high quality diet and our traditional farming protocols. Since our animals are never fed antibiotics or growth hormones they mature naturally without excess water weight. You can taste the difference.