EPIC + NORTHSTAR: THE EVOLUTION OF SOURCING

April 11, 2017 by David Leffler posted on Land + Livestock, Inside Epic

This winter, EPIC Provisions did something crazy. We helped buy 1,000 American bison. For many reasons, it’s the greatest step in our call for responsibly-sourced foods and refined supply chains. With Northstar Bison—a family-run ranch in Wisconsin dedicated to raising these majestic creatures in the grasslands they’ve roamed for thousands of years—and consumers by our side, we’re sending a clear message: the market wants grass fed animals and trustworthy companies.

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Getting to this point wasn’t easy. For over a year, we’ve worked hard to gain the trust of some of America’s premier bison ranchers and prove we’re in this business for the right reasons. We’ve had difficult conversations and built valuable relationships with operations of all sizes, especially family owned ranches like Northstar. But it’s all been worth it. Every second of it. Because now we have our chance to show the global food industry that, when given the chance, people don’t want feedlot mystery meat pumped full of hormones. They don’t want to ignore that the industrial, assembly-line approach to meat production is contributing to climate change. They want the truth. They want to be a part of a movement that fights for better care for our animals and puts our country’s proudest mammal back into vast acres of grasslands, where they belong.

That’s exactly what EPIC is doing. In helping acquire these baby bison, we’ll be with these calves from the moment they wean from their mothers to the time they’re harvested years later to the instant consumers eat them. We’ll have a pulse on every step of this sacred process. This requires going through great lengths and painstaking detail, but it’s worth it: we’ll be able to ensure these bison can roam on thousands of acres of North American grassland and are diverted away from feedlots and slaughterhouses. And thanks to the hard-working, honest family running Northstar Bison, we’ll have a partner who is dedicated to responsible ranching and growing America’s bison population.

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There’s a larger plan in place here. At the moment, roughly 5-7% of the U.S bison supply is grass fed—a far cry from we’d like it to be. It is our goal that, thanks to efforts like this to increase the supply and emphasize the importance of grass fed bison, that number will eventually reach over 30% across the industry. We have to lead the charge, though, which is why we’re working to get our internal bison supply chains up to 100% grass fed by 2020. Moreover, we’re striving to dedicate 1,000,000 acres of North American grasslands to our bison herd in three years. This will both protect these prized animals and deploy them to combat climate change through regenerative agricultural practices.  These are lofty goals, no doubt, but shooting for the stars is all we know.

EPIC is working with Northstar to broaden the reach of its Whole Animal Project, too. Of the 1,000+ bison we’ll be running through thousands of acres in Wisconsin, 98% of their bodies will be used to create meat bars, bone broth, cooking oil, leather products, and more. We’re incredibly proud of our dedication to maximizing animal usage and minimizing waste, and are confident that many more companies will follow suit if consumers hold them accountable.

In truth, that’s what all comes down to. EPIC is dedicated to our belief that bison should run freely, as they were meant to. We’re all-in on increasing the availability of responsibly-sourced and environmentally-conscious products. And we’re extremely excited about the acquisition of these bison and what it means for our company. But in the end, we need people to vote with their dollars to support companies, ranchers, and suppliers who are dedicated to raising animals the right way. Together—and only together—we can make the most of this opportunity and build on this EPIC leap for conscious consumerism.