1235 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee FL •  850.942.2557

A Truly Epic Journey

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Cristin Burns, Branding Director

Sometimes the story behind a product is that it’s good or good for you or free of this or contains that. In the case of EPIC, the story of their food is one of discovery, innovation and changing the world.

Last July our Store Manager, Dylan Walters, came back from a National Co-op Grocers gathering blown away by what the company EPIC was doing for our planet. At that time, EPIC was an established brand at the Co-op, but a relative unknown to me. Dylan’s excitement encouraged me to learn more, and I’m sure glad I did!

A Twist!

To understand how EPIC bars came to be we have to go back to when founders and owners Katie and Taylor were vegetarians. Both athletes, Katie and Taylor looked to vegetarianism, then veganism and finally a raw foods diet to help them “maximize their vigor and wellness.” What they found instead was gastrointestinal distress and inflammation. Their next dietary adventure—a whole foods diet that included healthy animal fats, grass-fed proteins and vegetables—turned out to be what their bodies needed to be “stronger, faster and leaner than they had ever been.” Having hit dietary gold, they set out to make “the world’s first 100% grass-fed meat, fruit and nut bar.”

It’s an interesting story so far, right? But it gets SO much better. EPIC isn’t just about nourishing our bodies; it’s about healthy animals that help heal our planet.

Deciding to make a grass-fed bar was easy, sourcing the meat was a whole other ball game. Kirk Blanchard, EPIC’s Protein Sourcerer aka Director of Operations, explains that when creating their first bar with bison, they assumed all bison were grass-fed (as did I before learning more). Realizing this wasn’t the case, EPIC had to think about how they could ensure long-term protein sources.

Meaty Partnerships

Here’s where local producer Will Harris of White Oak Pastures enters the story. White Oak Pastures is EPIC’s biggest partner and is the shining example of what EPIC is looking for in all their suppliers. In fact, EPIC is creating a set of criteria for their suppliers using White Oak as the model. But Will explains that White Oak hasn’t always been a regenerative farm.

Five generations of the Harris family have raised cattle at White Oak Pastures. Will’s father transitioned the farm from free-range and grass-fed to a mono-cultural cattle farm which Will continued when he took over. Over time, Will became increasingly unhappy with the unintended consequences of that farming system. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides destroyed the biology of the soil. As Will explains it, sterile soil is like a sterile gut, without healthy bacteria you can’t support life. Realizing that mono-cultural farming was a short-term solution, he began the journey of transitioning White Oak to the organism it is today.

At the core of White Oak is the belief that being sustainable isn’t enough. They have to improve and rejuvenate the land on which they live and work. Getting back to nature extends to the lives of their animals. It’s important, as Will explains, that his animals are allowed to “express their instinctive behavior.” For ruminants this means being able to roam and graze. For hogs, it means being able to “root and wallow,” and for chickens it includes being able to scratch and take dust baths. With two USDA certified abattoirs on their farm, it also means that White Oak Pastures ensure humane treatment for the entire life of their animals.

The abattoirs were never part of Will’s plan, but came from the desire to ensure the welfare of their livestock from beginning to end. Next, came a restaurant to provide good food for their staff (the closest food option is 12 miles away), followed by a general store that sells leather products made from their cowhides, soap and candles from tallow, rawhide treats, and more. White Oak Pastures' dedication to reduce waste goes hand in hand with EPIC’s The Whole Animal Project.

In January 2016, EPIC launched The Whole Animal Project. Looking to better honor and utilize the entire animal, they introduced Beef Liver Jerky Bites, Animal Cooking Oils, Pork Rinds, and a line of Bone Broth. Kirk chuckled as he explained that even the lanyards they wear at trade shows are leather straps made from the cows they source from White Oak Pastures. It may seem trivial to some, but that kind of attention to detail is what makes EPIC, and the farms they partner with, so unique.

You may have noticed that I haven’t said one word about the flavor of EPIC products. It’s important that their products taste good, and boy do they, but the real story isn’t about the food, it’s about the people, land and animals that make the products we love possible.

If you’d like to learn more about EPIC, their initiatives and partnerships, I encourage you to visit www.Epicbar.com. Never before have I been more engrossed by a website. With each blog article and pod cast, I became more of an EPIC groupie and I think you will be, too.

 

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