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Perdue Farms gobbles up 'humane beef' brand Niman Ranch

Perdue Farms gobbles up 'humane beef' brand Niman Ranch
The grass-fed beef on your plate at fancy restaurants may soon have come from Perdue, now that the poultry giant has bought the Niman Ranch brand and other holdings. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

Niman Farms, a California foodie favorite noted for its humane livestock practices, has been purchased by poultry giant Perdue Farms.

The purchase of Natural Food Holdings, which owns the Niman Ranch brand and other properties, enhances Purdue's position in the so-called premium protein market while sharpening its sustainability credentials.

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Terms of the deal with private equity firm LNK Partners, majority partner of Natural Food Holdings, were not disclosed.

Niman Ranch includes a network of 700 farms nationwide that raise beef, pork, lamb, cage-free eggs and produces smoked meats with high welfare standards and without antibiotics used in human medicine. Its customers include Chipotle Mexican Grill and many independent restaurants.

Also included in the deal were Prairie Grove Farms brand, which markets antibiotic-free pork, and SouixPreme Packing, both in Iowa.

Perdue announced last year that it had eliminated the routine use of human-use antibiotics in its chicken production. This year, it said it was raising half of its chickens with no human or veterinary antibiotics.

The widespread use of antibiotics in meat processing has been blamed for the emergence of strains of dangerous pathogens that have acquired resistance to antibiotics used to treat human infections.

"The Niman Ranch brand continues our commitment to raising animals without antibiotics or artificial growth stimulants, and to responsible food and agriculture," said Perdue Farms chairman Jim Perdue.

Jeff Swain, Natural Food Holdings' chief executive officer, said the purchase by family-owned Perdue was "the perfect fit to help us continue to grow and prosper while staying true to our brand's mission."

Niman began as a small family-run farm in Bolinas, north of San Francisco, and acquired pork operations in the 1990s.

Follow me on Twitter: @LATgeoffmohan.

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