- Applegate Farms, Hormel's natural and organic meat subsidiary, has debuted The Do Good Dog, which it calls the first nationally available hot dog sourced from beef raised on verified regenerative grasslands. The cattle are raised by SunFed Ranch in California. The hot dogs received regenerative sourcing verification with the Savory Institute’s Land to Market seal.
- The Do Good Dog hotdogs are available at select stores and Amazon for a suggested retail price of $6.99. They are gluten free and contain no preservatives, nitrites or nitrates, or added sugar, according to Applegate Farms.
- As the meat industry grapples with reports detailing its harm to the environment, brands like Applegate are attempting to improve its image and impact by introducing more sustainably sourced products that had been exclusive to organic stores and farmers’ markets, using methods such as regenerative farming.
While some companies like Tyson have rolled out emissions initiatives and poultry growers have touted ethical improvements, the meat industry overall has been slow to adopt more sustainable practices.
Other companies have rolled out products made from regeneratively grown meat, including General Mills with its Epic Beef-Barbacoa Inspired Bar earlier this year. Nestlé, which uses meat in many of its frozen products, has pledged to invest nearly $1.3 billion on transitioning its global supply chain to regenerative agriculture over the next five years. But Applegate is bringing regeneratively farmed beef to a wildly popular meat product. Over 255 million Americans consumed hot dogs in 2020, according to data shared by Statista.
Applegate debuted its organic hot dog 15 years ago, with a pared-down ingredient list of grassfed beef, water, salt and spices. But it believes that there are even more tools it can use to boost the positive impact of meat on consumers and the environment.
In a statement, Applegate president John Ghingo said that food animals “have a vital role to play in restoring soil health, sequestering carbon and safeguarding the land” against climate devastation. Cattle, raised for both beef and milk, cause 65% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the meat industry, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.
While Applegate has also embraced the plant-based trend by introducing products like its burgers blended with mushrooms for flexitarians, it sees regenerative farming as another way for sustainability-conscious consumers to continue to eat meat.
Holistic managed grazing, the technique used by SunFed Ranch, allows animals to "live in harmony with nature, following their instincts," Ghingo told Food Dive.
SunFed Ranch, which manages over 1.5 million acres of grassland, has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2024 and carbon negative by 2027, according to the press release. Its co-founder Matt Byrne said its mission is to move the cattle industry away from the "commodity, corn-based feedlot system."
Ghingo acknowledged that there are challenges in entering the regenerative farmed product space as it is “in its very early days” as a category outside of niche organic grocers.
“Anytime you do something significantly new like that, new education is needed to make the sector relevant for business, government, consumers, so that everyone cares about it,” Ghingo said.
Regenerative agriculture could also make good business sense. According to a Croatan Institute report, $700 billion in investments in regenerative agriculture over the next 30 years could yield a $10 trillion profit.
Ghingo also pointed to Applegate’s history entering the organic meat segment, which took time to grow as consumers became more aware of what the term meant. And when the company required that meat for its products be sourced from animals raised without antibiotics, there were many skeptics who questioned whether meat labeled with “No Antibiotics Ever” would see success. The antibiotic-free meat segment today is worth $3 billion, he said.
The younger generation of shoppers care much more about meat's impact on the environment, which Ghingo believes will have a significant impact on how manufacturers in the space source their products. A 2019 survey by Impossible Foods found that 62% of millennials and Gen Z are willing to pay more for food that won't harm the environment or animals.
“Consumers are expecting that the products are going to be sustainable. They’re also expecting those same products to be delicious, convenient and priced appropriately,” Ghingo said. “I think the consumer dynamics are there to pressure the industry."