Why We Use Niman Ranch: A Reminder

Why We Use Niman Ranch: A Reminder
One of the challenges of owning and running a restaurant is escalating food costs. My philosophy is that we do not change our standards. Instead we look for creative ways to manage these increases throughout all aspects of our operation, from how we control waste to how we purchase.
After speaking with some of my colleagues (Jason at Nine-Ten, Jeff at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, and Victor at Cowboy Star) who have changed all or parts of their Niman Ranch program, I started thinking maybe I should stop being so hard-headed and rethink the whole Niman relationship.
So I called my meat suppliers, scheduled a meeting and tasting between CAB Natural and Niman ground beef. CAB Natural is a large, corporate natural meat producer with a good reputation (Niman actually sells some product to them). Martin and I both felt the Niman meat tasted better, but not so much so as to warrant the $1 per pound difference. That may not seem like a lot, but it translates into about $1,000 each month. We decided to move forward with switching from Niman ground beef to CAB Natural. I have used Niman ground beef for 15 years so it was a tough decision to make.
I spoke to my Niman rep and supplier and they said they could help with the price a bit; they did not say anything negative about CAB Natural, which is what I was hoping for. After questioning them a lot, I found three solid reasons that convinced me to stick with Niman in the end.
  1. They were willing to help me on the price by about $.50 per pound.
  2. They are not a huge corporation and they support American family farms.
  3. Their beef is ground in the Premier Meat Company plant, a large butcher shop, whereas the CAB Natural is ground in the killing plant so the chance of cross-contamination with E. coli is much higher.
We take every decision that affects our menus, food safety and quality very seriously. I agonize over these decisions because I want our staff and our guests to know with 100% certainty that we are serving the best, healthiest and safest items we can.