Meat and poultry companies have a long history of philanthropy in the communities in which they operate and for larger social-welfare causes, but one company, Panorama Meats, is using partnerships with non-profit organization to redefine how it operates and to help it sustain business into the future.
This week Panorama announced a new partnership with the California Rangelands Trust to protect pasture rangelands from development, thus helping Panorama maintain a valuable feed source for its grass-fed beef. And earlier this summer Panorama announced an agreement with the U.S.’s largest organic cattle ranch, which is in Wyoming and is owned and operated on the Wind River Reservation by the Arapaho tribe. The agreement gives Panorama access to the ranch’s 3,500 head of organic grass-fed Angus cattle.
"Panorama was very quiet for the first couple of years after it was started, just trying to get the business up and running and focusing on growth," company spokesperson Michele Wells told MEATPOULTRY.com. "Now it’s coming out of its shell a little bit." She said the impetus for the new agreements has come in part from Mack Graves, president of the company, and in part from board member Bill Wilkinson, who owns a large organic-food distributorship in San Francisco, as well as other sources.
"They both have a strong commitment to being not just a socially responsible company, but a company that combines a strong environmental ethic with social responsibility and with growth. They believe very strongly it’s possible to accomplish all three of these things at once," she commented.
The agreement with the California Rangeland Trust is the first such agreement the Trust has entered into with a meat company. CRT uses voluntary conservation easements, recorded by the landowner and CRT, to permanently protect rangelands from development and other threats. To date, the Trust has easements covering more than 186,000 acres on 30 ranches.
The contract with Arapaho Ranch was signed by Panorama, the Arapaho Tribal Council and Whole Foods stores, which will exclusively retail the Arapaho/Panorama beef in its stores in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Utah. The agreement means that locally sourced certified organic grass-fed beef will be available to shoppers at Whole Foods’ 28 stores in the Rocky Mountain region for the first time, and the product is expected to be priced at just $1 per pound above "natural" beef choices. The agreement also establishes the first channel whereby the Northern Arapaho tribe will sell 100 percent of its beef to a retailer.
"The Arapaho deal was Mack’s idea," said Wells. "He had heard about this and he has a real interest in programs like this, in creating partnerships with groups like the Northern Arapaho. We think it’s going to be very successful for everyone concerned."
In a prepared statement, Dave Ruedlinger, meat coordination for Whole Foods’ Rocky Mountain region, said: "We’ve been searching for an organic, grass-fed beef supplier that would offer our shoppers high-quality beef at a good value. Since Panorama’s beef is also local, raised and harvested within a seven-hour drive, our shoppers will revel in the taste." According to Panorama, "The Northern Arapaho tribe is committed to maintaining the biodiversity and ecological balance of its land. Even wolves and coyotes, normally regarded as cattle's predators, are protected. The cattle move freely over abundant pastureland, sometimes spurred to move by those very predators — a natural check against overgrazing. Loss of cattle to predators is miniscule."
All of that will likely be attractive to Whole Foods shoppers, as Ruedlinger notes. More broadly, the CRT and Arapaho agreements burnish Panorama’s growing reputation as one of the U.S. meat industry’s most progressive companies. At the same time, the new partnerships also help expand the foundation Panorama needs to grow its business. The moves could very well prove to be more than just good public relations: as Panorama treads the narrow path between the price pressures created by imports of grass-fed beef from Uruguay and other countries and the growing "eat local" trend, these new long-term partnerships could be boons to Panorama’s marketing program without causing upward pressure on its own pricing.
"It’s the kind of company Panorama is," Wells told MEATPOULTRY.com. "Mack has been in the meat industry for a long time and he’s seen how things were done. He has thought about doing things differently and better from the very start."