A fascinating article in the Chronicle about the departure of Niman Ranch’s founder from his own company was brought to my attention yesterday. As most foodies (and chefs) know, Bill Niman’s sustainably and humanely raised meats were the darlings of many a kitchen despite their cost.
Seems that in Niman’s case, sustainability and ‘doing good’ couldn’t ultimately make a profit and the company narrowly escaped bankruptcy by turning its holdings over to Chicago’s Natural Food Holdings LLC. Niman has stepped away from the business and is now claiming that the company’s standards have dropped significantly.
It’s a tale that I’ve heard over and over and over again. I’ve been a huge fan of many artisan producers who, frankly, just couldn’t ultimately make the business succeed financially. Ideals are lofty notions that don’t always jibe with the cold, hard reality of capitalism.
It breaks my heart, just as the sale of Scharffen Berger to Hershey’s broke my heart. And the loss of so many other great producers.
The good news is that there’s always seems to be someone with a big idea, big hopes and big dreams ready to fill the void. I hope.