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The California-founded Niman Ranch has expanded its sustainable hog production with new farmers and a processing facility in Pennsylvania. Niman Ranch is utilizing a third-party processing facility, allowing the company to extend its farmer network in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northern Virginia and New York. By the end of the year, 20 new hog farmers, which meet Niman Ranch protocols, will be added to its existing network of more than 675 independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers.
According to Niman Ranch, humane animal treatment is a top priority on which the company was built and decisions are made. Since pork was added to the Niman Ranch line in 1995, hog operations have been centered in the Midwest with a network of family farmers committed to raising hogs in a traditional way. In 2010 Niman Ranch began exploring opportunities to expand its network East.
The first challenge was finding local farmers committed to maintaining Niman Ranch’s protocols, including raising hogs outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, maintenance of a vegetarian diet and utilizing genetics well suited to an outdoor environment and exceptional mothering abilities. The second challenge was locating a processing facility near the hog farmers that uses humane harvesting procedures. Niman Ranch is partnering with a facility which, like its current Iowa facility, utilizes the low-stress, carbon dioxide stunning system.
“It took well over a year to find hog farmers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northern Virginia and New York to raise animals to Niman Ranch’s strict standards and to locate a processing facility that treated the animals humanely,” said Jeff Swain, Niman Ranch chief executive officer, who has been traveling throughout the Northeast meeting with farmers.
In an effort to reduce the overall carbon footprint, Niman Ranch plans to distribute all pork raised in Pennsylvania to customers on the East Coast beginning this week.