Hunt and Gather

In a rare moment of reflection and after a recent disappointment, I decided to measure just how far we’ve come from that moment when I walked out of corporate America to pursue my passion.

The month of May is officially our 20th month in retail and it has been the most exhilarating journey of my life. Along the way, we’ve experienced our share of setbacks and successes. We’ve been overworked and underpaid. We’ve pulled all-nighters.  We’ve learned the intricacies of the grocery business on the fly and had to clean up a few bloody noses and cover up a few black eyes.  We’ve laughed, fought, and cried all in the same day.

All we knew going into this was that we had a clear vision, laser focus, authenticity, and the highest integrity jerky product on the shelf. We were hungry and pretty darn foolish too.

We have been overwhelmed and humbled by your support. Without you voting with your dollars, your testimonials, your encouraging emails of support, the social media interactions, and your recommendations to others, we certainly would not have come this far on our journey to revolutionize an old category. After all, there are “giants in the land”.

Stay-Hungry...Stay-Foolish

During this time of reflection, I recalled some of the things we’ve been told along the way that could have and perhaps ‘should have’ discouraged us. Admittedly, sometimes statements like these have caused us to question ourselves but only momentarily. Time and time again, we’ve used the pessimism of others and nay sayings as fuel rather than let them distract and deter us from our mission.

I don’t share this to be boastful in any way.  I share this in hopes it provides one of you with the encouragement you need to keep pressing forward in the face of whatever adversity you may be experiencing.

They said, “leaving a stable job with salary and benefits in this economy is crazy”. They were right but life is too short to not pursue your passion.

They said, “you’ll run out of money”. Yep. We have…several times…but we don’t live in fear.  We keep moving forward and guess what…we’re still here and still growing.

They said, “it’s too hard to get distribution”. Yep, it is. Damn hard. But that didn’t stop us from gaining distribution with the largest and 2nd largest Natural Food distributors in the country along with the largest Outdoor Retail Distributor in the country. To-date, we have relationships with 5 distribution companies, nationwide.

They said, “Grocery shelf space is too competitive”. Yep, extremely. Long-standing brands control and pay for a good deal of shelf space in most retail stores. Who cares! Consumers are beginning to seek authenticity and food products with integrity. The garbage they’ve been fed by the major food corporations for the past 50 years is coming to an end. Today, at Publix, we sit right next to the company who *currently owns 70% market share in beef jerky shining as the higher integrity alternative. To-date, we have products offered in 40+ states across the US.

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They said, “there’s too much competition”.  There will always be competition. That didn’t stop us from landing shelf space at Publix, The Fresh Market, Earth Fare, REI, and hundreds more independent retailers in our first 18 months.

They said, “anyone can do what we’re doing”. Sure. But most won’t because they’ll talk themselves out of it before they ever get started. The 80/20 rule always applies.

Person-Interrupted

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It’s as if food conversations have become a taboo subject with parents just as politics and religion…except that if we don’t begin the conversation now we will ultimately be faced with the consequences of our children battling disease, becoming obese, and watching type-2 Diabetes kill Aunt Betty.

It’s past time for real talk. I’m simply over being afraid to offend people anymore.

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Last week, I wrote a blog post about the grocery shopping tendencies (that I’ve personally observed) of the average consumer.  As I mentioned, I’m in a grocery store every single day. You don’t need a scientific poll to quickly see that there’s an enormous mountain to climb when it comes to our food habits.

What if you found out everything you thought you understood about nutrition was wrong?

What if you fell victim to the 11 most destructive nutrition lies ever told?

What if the folks from the chemical giant at the forefront of Genetically Engineered Foods, Mansanto had their hand in every government regulatory agency when it comes to our food system?

Would that be enough to have an honest conversation about something as intimate as what we’re shoveling into our mouths everyday? Much of which are items we consider “food” that usually aren’t even close…

Where's the Food in this cart? I don't see any...

Where’s the Food in this cart? I don’t see any…

This past week, one of the partners in our business decided to take a stand and express her opinion in her son’s elementary school fundraiser.  In a nutshell, the fundraiser was to sell doughnuts and the class with the most sales was to be rewarded with a pizza and ice cream party.

Now, before you pass judgment either way and get all fired up, I’m all about allowing kids to partake in some junk food from time to time. It’s okay for our kids to be kids. It’s not the treats that are killing us, it’s the everyday.

At the same time, the local newspaper decided to pick up on the debate and present an article asking if it’s time to give up the doughnut fundraiser in favor of another option. In light of childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes rates, etc, should we consider an alternative to the old habit of “junk food fundraisers”?  Valid question.

As suspected, this article received loads of responses on the web.  The vast majority of the responses took the viewpoint that whoever is complaining about a doughnut fundraiser should ‘lighten up’. Others pointed out that food habits and responsibility are the parents job at home, not the schools. A few examples include:

“Next will be the scout cookies and popcorn. Let people actually be responsible for their decisions……stop forcing decisions on them………BTW…..I rarely eat any of the mentioned “goodies.”

“People need to find something better to do with their time than complain about a doughnut fundraiser! The doughnut isn’t the problem folks. “It all starts at home”.”

“You know,,,the doughnut forces the mouth open and demands people eat it!! So the poor doughnut get’s the blame”

Honestly, I was not surprised at the responses. In fact, I’m not in disagreement with many of their comments. From what I can tell, EVERY SINGLE person completely missed the point. Perhaps, we’re all too sensitive about our freedoms being trampled on and government bureaucrats trying to tell us what’s good for us and how to live our lives from a bubble in DC (I could write a book on that one). I share in those sentiments and certainly appreciate being able to live my life without some ‘busy body’ trying to impose rules because they have nothing better to do.

This issue is not about ANYONE trying to limit personal choice, take the fun out of being a kid, or advising you how to raise your children. This is about opening up the lines of communications and exploring BETTER ways to do things. After all, would it be logical to consider the habits formed as children are carried into adulthood to some degree? I know I did, especially with my diet.  Shouldn’t what kids learn at school be somewhat in alignment with what’s going on at home?

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Need more than just my personal grocery observations? Here you go…

According to the latest numbers issued by the CDC:

-Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

-The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010.

-Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

I applaud the efforts of the parents who are leading the conversation and actually having an open discussion on the matter.  The problem is and has been no one thinks it’s a big deal.  Let’s be clear. It’s a HUGE EFFING deal. All the folks who just shrug it off with the “I’ve got better things to be concerned with”…you are the problem. It’s that kind of attitude that has lead us down this path.

It’s time to stop sweeping this stuff under the rug. Kids are sick. Adults are sick.  Let’s bring meal time back to the table and slow down for 30 freaking minutes to cook a real meal. Let’s open up the lines of communication when it comes to the “old way” of doing things and quit bashing people who question if what’s been done in the past is the best path forward. We’re creative and resourceful.  Thomas Alva Edison said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

Exactly!

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Recently, I shared my personal story about why I left corporate America for Beef Jerky.  I shared how and why I changed my eating philosophy and the results of that journey which was a 40 lb weight loss and 6 inches off my waistline.  I was overwhelmed by the responses received from so many kind folks offering words of encouragement and thanking me for sharing.  With your permission, I’d like to peel back a few more layers of the onion.

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Once I made a wholesale change to my eating habits, like many others, I began shopping at the “healthy” grocery stores. There are 2 MAJOR truths about these stores. One, most people shopping around you share the common goal of eating healthier. They’ve read a book or a blog article or watched a documentary that has inspired them to stop consuming foods that are riddled with preservatives, unnatural ingredients, pesticides, and all sorts of words they can’t pronounce.  The second truth about these stores is that not everything in the store (albeit a health food store) is good for you. Imagine that. Yes, I’m saying the pizza you are ordering up from the pizza counter is doing more harm to your health than it is helping it. Even if all the ingredients are organic? Yes. Organic doesn’t always = good for you. Is it better than what they’re serving up at your local carryout joint? Perhaps…

I’ll preface the rest of my comments with, I’m not a complete prude or a food tyrant (okay maybe a little on both accounts) but I still enjoy a cup of ice cream or a slice of cheesecake from time to time.  I’m not the guy turning down birthday cake at my nieces party because “I don’t eat that”.  As our friend Jamie Oliver put it, “it’s not the extremes and the treats that are the problem, it’s the everyday.”

When I walked away from my corporate job in Sept. 2012, our grass-fed jerky snacks were not in any retail stores. Zero. I had no idea how the world of grocery worked either (smart move I know). I was just wide-eyed and excited to share our jerky which I considered the healthiest portable protein available with the world. Who could possibly turn me down right?  As I write this post, it’s been 16 months since our launch into retail and our products are now available in over 450 retail locations across 38 states.  This growth has not lacked its share of pains, mistakes, learning experiences, gotcha’s, you name it. On the flip side, it allows me the privilege of being in a grocery store almost every day of the week. I get to hunt and gather in a modern world, every day. Sometimes I’m popping in to check on the shelf and make sure the product presentation is up to our standards. Other times I’m passing out samples and educating consumers about our brand. What I’ve observed across the board has scared the daylights out of me.

The amount of grocery carts filled with items that appear to be food but are not food in any way is outrageous. Of all people, Cameron Diaz might have said it best her new book, “Here’s a Secret: just because you can put something in your mouth, chew it, swallow it, then poop it out, doesn’t mean it’s food. It just means you can chew it, swallow it, and poop it out.”  Seriously, I knew we had a problem with our eating habits as a whole but I did not realize it was this bad.  Frozen pizza’s, lunchables, pepperoni, chips, popcorn, frozen waffles, bleached and enriched noodle products are not, and I repeat, NOT food.

The amount of lunchables I see fly off store shelves borders on child abuse.  I don’t care if they like them or if it’s convenient. It’s NOT food and is potentially setting them up for a whole host of health problems. This is way deeper than just body composition and being overweight. This is about people dying young and suffering with diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, obesity, and the list goes on.  It’s time to get blunt about it. If you can’t find the correlation between factory farms where animals are loaded up with growth hormones and antibiotics, today’s grain products (that have up to 40x the amount of gluten as the grain from 50 years ago), a high carbohydrate diet, the war on healthy fat, the war on cholesterol (egg consumption in particular), the alarming amount of sugar and fructose consumption and the rapid increase in diet related disease you’re either blind, deaf, or simply don’t care.  One of my favorite and ‘blunt’ quotes that represents the kind of real talk that’s needed now is:

Jamie Oliver

David Perlmutter, MD sums this point up quite nicely in his book Grain Brain. He says:

“Beyond calories, fat, protein, and micronutrients, we now understand that food is a powerful epigenetic modulator – meaning it can change our DNA for better or worse. Indeed, beyond simply serving as a source of calories, protein, and fat, food actually regulates the expression of many of our genes. And we have only just begun to understand the damaging consequences of wheat consumption from this perspective. Most of us believe that we can live our lives however we choose, and then when medical problems arise, we can turn to our doctors for a quick fix in the form of the latest and greatest pill. This convenient scenario fosters an illness-centered approach on the part of the physicians as they play their role as the purveyors of pills. But this approach is tragically flawed on two counts. First, it is focused on illness, not wellness. Second, the treatments themselves are often fraught with dangerous consequences”. 

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I’m going to write a post on all the lies we’ve been told about the food pyramid next but for now I feel the need to implore all of us to do better. As I journey inside grocery stores daily, I’m reminded about the massive mountain in front of us.  Please make sure what you’re putting in your cart is real food. Let’s stop this vicious cycle of disease. Vote with your dollars and the real food options will begin to cost less than junk food. It’s simple economics but we need your vote. Thanks for reading.

Jason

 

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Excited to have the fine folks at Gear Patrol Reviewing our Jerky!

http://gearpatrol.com/2014/02/12/today-gear-february-12th-2014/

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In digging through some old photos the other day, I ran across this picture of me and my wife from 2009. She’s as beautiful as ever but I’m still in disbelief that the person standing next to her in the picture is me.  I honestly do not recognize that person. I was 27 years old in that photo but felt much older.  Shortly after this picture was taken, I discovered that EVERYTHING I had been taught about the food I was shoveling into my mouth each day was wrong. All of my food knowledge came from what I ate at home growing up and the occasional TV commercial.

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Somebody Lied

Our parents’ generation was marketed one of the biggest group of lies ever perpetrated on a population.  Food marketers over the past 50 years have been nothing short of genius.  They sold a lie that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat would keep you lean, healthy, and disease free. They were the generation marketed to with the lie that vegetable oils were healthier than coconut oil, that margarine is better for you than real butter, that low fat milk is better for you than full fat milk, that granola bars, low fat yogurt, and cheerio’s are part of a healthy diet. They were told a diet high in Cholesterol will increase their risk of heart disease. They were sold (and we’re still being sold) the lie that whole grains are a good source of Fiber, B Vitamins, and rich in “complex” carbohydrates.

If you look at how our parents’ generation is dying off today we are seeing things like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia. David Perlmutter, MD, in his book, Grain Brain puts it like this“If you could ask your Grandparents or great-grandparents what people died from when they were growing up, you’d likely hear the words ‘old age’. Or you might learn the story of someone who got a nasty germ and passed away prematurely from tuberculosis, cholera, or dysentery. What you won’t hear are things like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.”  That’s because our grandparents and great grandparents were still eating whole foods that were sourced from local farms. Processed foods weren’t a staple in their diets. They ate real cheese, real butter, full fat milk, and cooked with lard. Their proteins came from locally raised, pastured chickens, cows, and pigs that had never been doped up with growth stimulants. Their diets were overall higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates. They ate plenty of in season vegetables and produce.

So back to my story…

I didn’t give much attention to what I ate on a daily basis. If I was on-the-go and hungry, I drove through the first fast Chick Fil A restaurant I could find (because a Chicken Sandwich and Fries were a ‘healthy alternative’ to the burger place). If I didn’t feel like cooking, a frozen pizza was a cheap and easy option. When I actually did cook a “wholesome meal”, I made sure I had a good “starch” included in my “well balanced” dinner.  After all, Texas Toast, dinner rolls, or a baked potato made a good addition to any well balanced dinner…all topped with margarine or ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ because those were healthier than real butter according to the experts. How was that working out for me? Well, the picture below is how. Physically, I was on a path to obesity. 

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Primal + CrossFit

Thank God I was introduced to a coach who clearly cares for the well being of his community. Someone who is passionate about fitness and more importantly about food. A guy who some might call ‘extreme’ in their views by not allowing items like nutella, doritos, and breakfast cereal in his house. If you know him and see him at the local grocery store, you might avoid him if you have unacceptable items in your cart. Robert VanNewkirk opened a CrossFit gym (in his garage) in my community 5 years ago and not only introduced me to a more effective way to exercise but took the time to explain food to me.  Not just in a “eat this and not that” way…but he inspired me in such a way to research how our bodies have been evolutionarily designed to turn the fuel from food into energy for our cells to use.  I learned how and why certain so-called foods were detrimental to my long-term health far beyond just body composition. I learned how our food pyramid was completely wrong.  Then I opened up Pandora’s box when stumbled across Mark Sisson’s website, marksdailyapple.com

As I began the most basic research, the concept was simple. As a species, we are genetically and physiologically identical to the humans that lived before the dawn of agriculture. We may not be actual hunter-gatherers anymore, but our bodies behave the same from a biological perspective.  I needed no other explanation than that. If that statement is true, it is evidence enough that in a modern society, we should do everything in our power to mimic an ancestral, primal diet.

As I made wholesale changes to the way I eat, everything changed for me. Immediately, I lost body fat. Adding in a few days per week of constantly varied functional fitness performed at high intensity, I gained leaned muscle mass. My energy levels changed and I sleep better at night. I feel better, I look better, and I perform better in my daily routine. In total I lost 40 lbs and 5 inches off my waist line.

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How does that translate to a Beef Jerky Company?

Jerky, for me, began as a hobby because in the journey to change my diet, my biggest struggle was having healthy protein that’s portable. I needed something that would sustain me in between meals and jerky seemed to be the natural option. There’s nothing more Primal than jerky BUT the commercially produced jerky available in most convenience and grocery stores by in large comes from factory farmed meat that’s loaded with artificial growth hormones.  It’s also among the most over-processed, preservative filled, unhealthy products available so I began by making my own at home.  I only included spices in agreement with my new way of eating and pasture raised, grass-fed beef.

Within a few short months, I was making jerky for myself and many of my gym comrades. 6 table-top dehydrators later, my wife came home from a girls night out complaining of smelling like a “smokehouse” and graciously informed me that my at-home jerky making project had become more than a hobby.  It was at that time, I realized that we may be “on to something” special. I realized that many folks were in my same shoes and were looking for an on-the-go snack that allowed them to stay on the right track with their new way of eating.  I had discovered a way to make jerky, the perfect portable protein, healthy again.

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I could’ve continued on making clean jerky at home for myself (it would’ve been a lot cheaper & easier that’s for sure) but why? Going Primal changed my life and I decided not to keep that to myself.  Jerky was simply my platform to spread the message. Why not take a product to retail stores that makes it easier for folks just like me to stick to their eating plan? The byproduct is raising awareness amongst the masses because as they pass by our items on store shelves, they have to take notice that a movement is taking place.

When I observe what goes on in modern day grocery stores every day and hear the conventional wisdom of our current so-called dietary experts, I realize we have an enormous mountain to climb to reverse the damage that’s been done. With your help and continued support of our brand and others who are innovating in the area of Primal foods, I’m convinced we can lead the charge and continue to add pressure to conventional wisdom that continues to spew garbage onto the masses.  That’s why I decided to leave my corporate job and start a Beef Jerky business.  Going Primal worked for me. I’m convinced it saved my life.  I wonder how many pegs we can replace with Primal products on the shelf below….

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