Taylor Collins is a champion of meat. He’s already accomplished great things for animal protein as co-founder of Epic Provisions, a pioneering meat-snack brand that General Mills purchased in 2016.
Now, as CEO of Roam Ranch and his new Force of Nature brand of bison cuts, Collins is taking on an even bigger task on behalf of steaks, chops and burgers: making these products worthy of stacking up against the growing threat to his industry from rapidly growing plant-based alternatives such as Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger.
“We’ve been sitting by and watching the uprising of vegan meat alternatives, and meat has been under attack – and rightfully so,” Collins says. “For a long time we lost our way based on industrialized agriculture. So our new company is standing up and defending the legacy of meat and honoring animals and using ways that restore and heal and create a net positive return for the planet.”
Roam Ranch, set in the Texas Hill Country near Austin, is a 450-acre parcel of river-bottom land that Collins describes as agriculturally spent. His new company has launched what it calls a “large-scale ecosystem-restoration process in which livestock is used to replicate the patterns of native species.”
He and Katie Forrest, his wife, began its intended reclamation a couple of years ago by introducing bison – which he says had been absent from the area for about 130 years – as well as beef cattle, goats, 200 chickens, 15 ducks and other assorted critters. Their herds are pasture-raised, 100-percent grass-fed and free of added hormones and antibiotics. Pigs and poultry are “pasture-raised with access to natural forage.”
All of them have begun working in concert to restore biodiversity to the soil and a start to creating a positive carbon footprint, Collins says.
“We’re creating a brand-new narrative: for consumers who want to eat meat but feel guilty about it,” he says. “We have shown that regeneratively managing beef can capture carbon from the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Beyond Meat is still emitting carbon into the atmosphere with their production process.”
As with premium-priced Epic bars, Collins is hoping to create consumer appreciation for regeneratively raised bison meat, which he and Forrest have begun selling at the Central Market mid-Texas supermarket chain under the Force of Nature marque. “Ideally, we’re trying to keep all items under $10 a unit,” he says.
But more than that, Collins wants Roam Ranch to serve as a foothold for what eventually would become a vast new supply chain of meat that is produced with climate-blessing methods. “People already doing it need to expand and grow, and people not doing it – but who have a heart for it – need to have the opportunity,” Collins says. “So we’re trying to scale what exists by creating this brand.
Clearly, Collins already has favorably influenced General Mills, which is investing in regenerative-agriculture operations around the country to grow ingredients for many of its other brands, including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Nature Valley – even Cheerios.
Collins, Forrest and fellow Roam Ranch co-founder Robert Sansom are hoping that Force of Nature can go beyond, based on their experience with Epic.
“When we started Epic,” Sansom recalls, “only two percent of the bison in North America were grass-fed. But through consumer demand, we were able to grow that number to 18 percent. That’s the power a CPG brand can have in driving change.”