Put your bacon where your mouth is

This winter, we found out that our best-selling bacon, Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked, was made of pork from hogs raised in confinement. We have our friends at Food Democracy Now to thank for tipping us off to Vande Rose’s use of confined housing for their sows, which led to our decision to stop selling the product. Because of the stand we’ve taken to avoiding selling meat from animals raised in confinement, we had no choice but to take Vande Rose bacon off our shelves .

We replaced it with Benton’s, which was easy to do given how delicious Benton’s is (when we had a blind bacon taste test at 18 Reasons last year, it was a top pick). Allen Benton (who our friend Ari Weinzweig in his book Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon refers to as “seriously one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, in the food world or out”) makes this super smoky bacon in Eastern Tennessee. Smoke, salt and sweet all come through, and the pork bellies come from sustainably raised Berkshire hogs.

Nothing is black and white in the meat world. The more we learn, the harder it gets to do business.. The nuances of where animals are housed, what they’re allowed to eat, and how they are processed aren’t easy to put into buckets, so we do our best to evaluate each on a case by case basis to make the best decision possible. Even though these decisions might not be the best for business, we still take a stance, voting with our dollars, with the hopes of improving food production in our country.

9 Responses to “Put your bacon where your mouth is”

  1. Justin says:

    Way to make a stand. I’m normally not the activist type but I respect and admire your decision. My only wish is that you guys were the size of Wal-Mart so it would command an immediate change in how suppliers do things….I guess one step at a time.

  2. Amanda says:

    I really applaud your decision. Thank you for taking this stand. I work really hard to buy happy meat, and I count on you to support vendors with ethical practices. However, I can’t help but wonder, how much research do you do when you agree to carry a product? Doing a quick google search, I found this blog (from 2007) about their farm practices.
    I guess I’d also like to know in the future, what steps you’ll take to not make this error again?

    • Sam says:

      Amanda, thank you for your important question. We made an error in judgment and we’re on the path to rectifying it by taking an even harder look at all of our practices. We can and will do better and hope to raise the bar to create a better food supply chain for everyone. Your support is invaluable for making improvements in our food system possible.


  3. MrEricSir says:

    I don’t eat meat, but even I think this is a good stand to take. Removing the factory from the farms makes a better world for everyone, animals and humans alike.

  4. Steve says:

    I have purchased Vande Rose bacon in the past, believing that I was making one of the best choices possible. Thank you for providing a missing data point.

  5. Kim says:

    Thank you Sam, and everyone at Bi-Rite, for making this change. Choices such as these are why Bi-Rite is my source for the good stuff (local, organic, sustainable, humane and oh so tasty).

  6. Jay says:

    Thank you for making this change. The more I get to know about Bi-Rite, the more impressed I am! Since discovering it recently, it has quickly become, hands-down, my favorite place to shop for food in the city.

    I’d like ask a bit of a tangential humane meat question. A number of my “compassionate carnivore” friends refuse to purchase Niman Ranch products after Bill Niman apparently lost faith in his former company. I realize that you still feature Niman Ranch products (and thus must have faith in the brand), but I’m wondering if you’ve ever reconsidered this in light of the controversy.

    Thanks for all the great work, food, and education!

    • Sam says:

      Hi Jay,

      We feature some of the Niman Ranch cured pork products and do bring in some fresh pork when we can’t get enough pork from our other sources. Niman Ranch’s pork program is great as it is still managed by Paul Willis, an Iowa native and hog farmer himself. Paul is a leader in animal husbandry and humane processing. He has been managing Niman’s pork network of 500 family farmers for over 15 years and has been instrumental in revitalizing traditional hog farming. Niman hogs are never administered hormones or antibiotics, are never confined and are humanely raised and processed.

      Great question, glad you asked it.


      • Jay says:

        This is great news, as I’m totally addicted to their ham steaks. Thanks for answering my question, Sam!