"Humane" Producer Acquired by Factory Farm Giant

Niman Ranch Pork founder Bill Niman calls "hormone free" a "marketing opportunity."

In a move to reduce direct competitors, factory farm meat producer Perdue Farms purchased Northern California-based Niman Ranch this week, a company known for antibiotic-free pork raised “on pasture or in bedded pens.” Bill Niman founded Niman Ranch in the 1970s as an alternative to factory farming, and made a name for himself in restaurant and foodie circles as the founding father of “humanely raised” meat. Niman stepped away from the business in 2007 after a controlling stake in the business was acquired by Natural Food Holdings, an Illinois investment firm. Whereas Niman Ranch was known for its vehement opposition to treating animals with antibiotics, Niman says new ownership means that “when a cow gets sick, Niman Ranch medicates it and takes it out of the system, so it's not sold as Niman Ranch beef. But then they implant it with hormones and sell it into the commodity beef market,” adding that “they just see hormone free as a marketing opportunity.” Several class action lawsuits have been filed against Perdue Farms for falsely advertising its products as “humanely raised.”

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