As I say regularly, I consider myself fortunate to live in Iowa. While the East coast has it's sophistication and the West coast has its laid back attitude, here in the Midwest we have the best of both worlds, especially with friends like Thornton, Iowa hog farmer Paul Willis. Here at Food Democracy Now!, we think America is lucky to have good family farmers like Paul, who stand as a testament to what can be accomplished when one has a strong vision and the integrity to carry it out.
Over a decade ago, Paul founded the Niman Ranch Pork Company and has seen the hogs from his farm served at some of the finest restaurants in the U.S., including Chez Pannise, The Slanted Door, Oliveto and Momofuko, among a long list of many others. One of the first things that people say about eating pork served from Niman Ranch is how amazing it tastes.
For this Iowa boy raised on beef, my mother's father raised prized Hereford cattle, I remember my first Niman Ranch pork chop over four years ago and still savor the incredible richness and flavor of the pork, something I had not eaten regularly for years. Since that time I've made up for it, consuming as much of Niman Ranch's famous Applewood smoked bacon, chorizo sausage and Phyllis' (Paul's lovely wife) famous Danish pork burgers as possible.
For many of the world's finest chefs, the rich flavor of Niman Ranch pork can be traced back to how the animals are raised, out in pasture, with the highest animal welfare standards in the business.
As a result of these high standard, Paul regularly travels across the country, sharing his story of how free range pork and sustainably raised animals not only improve the taste for consumers, but also improve the lives of the animals and ultimately our environment.
It comes as no surprise that Paul was recently featured in this month's Esquire magazine which covered the New York City Wine & Food Festival, along with highflying chefs Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame and Bobby Flay of the Food Network.
Last week Paul travelled to New York City to add a little Iowa flair to the ritzy wine and food event. Fortunately, Esquire took notice and snapped a photo of our favorite hog farmer and fellow co-founder of Food Democracy Now!
In the photo caption, Paul explains briefly why his pork is so well received:
"We love our animals, even though we know they're ultimately raised for food."
Here at Food Democracy Now! we'd like to give a big shout out to one of our heroes!