Last week, I was lucky enough to attend an incredible dinner with Perdue Farms. If your mind goes straight to chicken processing, you’re right! That Perdue Farms. However, they’re so much more than that these days. They’ve undergone a deliberate shift in the last 10 years that people may not be aware of – a shift toward free-range, organic, responsibly sourced meats and ethically treated animals. Part of this shift also includes producing authentic dining experiences. Their most recent dinner was hosted by Yuyo in east Austin.
Perdue Farms is a privately owned, 4th generation family business. Chris Perdue, Director of E-Commerce at Perdue Farms, was at the dinner and explained how they are trying to bring the company in a new direction. He wants people to maybe revisit a brand they used to consume a long time ago. Chris and his partners are running Perdue Farms with an eye toward the future.
Currently, Perdue is one of the largest produces of organic chicken in the world. This wasn’t always the case, as I’m sure you’re aware. In 2014, an animal rights video came out which showed some pretty terrible conditions on one of their farms. Perdue Farms was unaware of the atrocities on this particular farm and could have easily released the typical PR response of “So sorry, the conditions on this farm don’t represent the values of Perdue Farms.” However, that’s not the route they took. They didn’t fire the farmer. In fact, they worked with him IN PARTNERSHIP WITH the animal rights group to fix things. They went even one step further – They called other animal rights groups and asked for their help and evaluation.
This is the shift Perdue has been making. Shifting away from impersonal, mass chicken production to ethically raised, organic products. Their product line has grown from just chicken and turkey over the years and now includes pork, beef, and other veggie-filled products (like their chicken plus chicken nuggets!).
Niman Ranch is a Perdue Farm partner and is the ultimate gold standard for ethically raised pork. Chris Oliviero, Vice President and General Manager of Niman Ranch, spoke a little bit about their business model. They’re a small company supporting 740 farmers and ranchers. 740. That’s it. When Niman Ranch collects their hogs, they’ll pick up 5 or so from one farm, drive to the next and pick up 5 more. This small scale is how Niman Ranch is able to uphold the highest quality standards while at the same time supporting small, independent family farms.
This is cool and all, Kelly, but how does this connect to Austin? So glad you asked.
Lone Star Meats is a family-owned and operated premium meats wholesaler in Austin. They partner with Niman Ranch to sell incredibly high-quality meats. At first, sustainably sourced meats made up 0% of Lone Star Meats products. Now, with the direction, they are moving and thanks to the partnership with Niman Ranch, they have about 40%. That’s some incredible progress!
Maribel Rivero of Yuyo is the talented, James Beard-nominated chef that cooked up the meats for the evening. Combining her understanding of the complexities of Peruvian food with the high-quality meats of the evening, Chef Maribel created some absolutely delicious entrees.
For example, using the Chinese influence in Peruvian cuisine, Chef Maribel put together bao buns with Niman Ranch pork. We also had Peruvian rice with Andean corn, squash soup, and a delicious meringue dessert with strawberries and figs. I rounded out the evening with a glass of Perdue Farms Punch (raw sugar syrup, granny smith apple, lemon juice, and junmai daiginjo sake) and called it a night!
Thank you Perdue Farms, Dana, and Yuyo for coordinating such a wonderful evening!