Meet Stefan Oellinger, Applegate’s senior director of raw supply and the man (literally) in charge of our efforts to change the meat we eat. Stefan gave us a quick explainer on why a more holistic agricultural system is key.
Q: The food industry is obsessed with claims. Why?
A: In general people these days know very little about where their food comes from or how it was grown or raised. If it has no claims, certifications or fancy logos, the assumption is that it must be mass produced, low quality or both.
Q: But all those claims can be confusing too.
A: (Sigh), yes. Claims do have benefits. They create rules for farmers: by following certain standards you are guaranteed a higher price. The problem is that many farmers do exactly--and only--what it takes to get that premium. As a result, the consumer may not truly be getting what they think they are getting.
Take grass-fed beef. When consumers choose grass-fed, they think of cattle grazing on pastures. But there are cattle that are fed only grass actually spend the majority of their life on feedlots! That is not what the consumer thought they were purchasing. Our cattle graze in pastures 100% of their lives. They are never in a feedlot.
Q: Oy. So what do we do about that?
A: It’s tricky. But one thing is sure: We need there to be a more holistic approach to how we grow and raise our food.
That means using the KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid] method. Essentially if I cannot explain to the average consumer why we do something, then it probably is too complex of a process. It also means tying higher prices to higher quality, more nutritious food, fair wages and minimal impacts on the environment. In other words, we pay farmers to create overall social economic value, rather than to meet a minimum standard that lets them (and us) slap a certification on a package.
At Applegate, we are working to build a new system that creates authenticity and trust, not only through certifications, but more importantly with a connection to the farmers. It’s a system where consumers get exactly what they think they are buying, meat produced in harmony with nature.