Saturday, November 17, 2007

Is Stress Edible?

This is one of the most fascinating and powerful arguments I've ever heard about why we need to pay close attention to the food we eat.

Stephanie Daniel and Dr. Joon Yun, authors of a book called Low Stress Food, argue that one key reason we humans feel stressed is because we literally injest stress that exists in the food we eat. To quote from their Web site (, "The unnatural stress imparted on animals and plants through the industrialized food infrastructure is coming full circle back to those who consume them in a perverse version of 'you are what you eat.'"

The corollary: if we eat food raised under less stressful conditions, we will lower our own levels of stress commensurately.

The beauty is that low-stress food not only has nice moral and environmental implications, it is also highly likely to taste better.

For instance with beef, there is a direct correlation between excess levels of stress hormones and tough meat. While tenderness is a function of many things -- genetics, diet, handling, and aging are the most important -- cattle that have suffered significant stress (whether from dramatic swings in weather, poor handling, or a multitude of other causes) have a far higher liklihood of being tough.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

People I Admire

I just love this story and this lovely lady. Diane Del Signore was introduced to me by one of my advisors, Rob Hurlbut, former CEO of Niman Ranch. She'd approached him, as had I, for advice on how to break the commodity trap in red meat, starting with beef.

Like me, Diane would like to see the grass-only beef industry blossom. She's provided guidance and support now for nearly a year in our endeavor to rethink the beef industry from a consumer's perspective.

In the meantime, she's put her talk into action in a related field: growing backyard chickens. An article in Oakland Magazine tells the story. You can read more about Diane on her Website, Snap Pea Partners.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Royal Agricultural Fair Debut

We had the great pleasure of debuting The Oliver Ranch Company at the 85th Anniversary of the Ontario Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. This is the premier event in Ontario for beef cattle and dairy breeders, who show their prized heifers, bull calves, cows, and bulls. Huge, cattle sized blow dryers and glitter paint everywhere, you have never seen such pampered livestock (or cute kids).

The highlight for us was talking to consumers and farmers from throughout Ontario and Quebec about our new online marketplace for connoisseur quality, natural or organic beef.

In particular, we want to thank two gentlemen from Hamilton, Ontario, who officially became the first in Ontario to place an order for our exquisite beef.

They wisely selected one of our Discover Beef Experience tasters packs and I hear they plan to host a New Year's steak-tasting extravaganza. They'll be comparing Dry Aged Charolais, Dry Aged 100% Black Angus, Wet Aged Friesian, and Wet Aged Wagyu - Angus Cross (sometimes known as "Kobe-Style" beef). Looking forward to the results. So far, there's no clear winner, each style has been "favorited" many times.

Hats off to Bill Duron and team who put on this fabulous fair each year. And thanks to Carl Cosack, my colleague and owner of Peace Valley Ranch and Rawhide Adventures, Adrienne, Leah van Draanen-Earwaker, Steve Earwaker, Jo-Anne van Draanen, Brian Belanger, and Jenna van Draanen-Earwaker for helping us in the booth.

Finally, thanks to Myna, Connie, and Wanda from the Ontario Potato Growers and to Dave, Erin, Scott, Richard, and the other fine folks from the Wheat, Soybean, and other seed boards who entertained us with the Farmers Feed Cities roulette wheel. (If you got three 7s, you got a free T Shirt.) Best neighbors you could have!