Mindful Meats merges with Marin Sun

David Briggs
MERGED: Claire Herminjard and David Evans spent their recent honeymoon in Switzerland and Iceland “for a bit of wilderness meets working landscapes. We were so inspired...” she said.  
02/16/2017

While honeymooning in Switzerland last summer, Claire Herminjard and David Evans found themselves bombarded with messages about their respective meat businesses back home. Ms. Herminjard, C.E.O. of Mindful Meats, and Mr. Evans, C.E.O. of Marin Sun Farms, then had a lightbulb moment.

“We realized we had an answer for each other’s challenges,” Mr. Evans said. 

When the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon, they began “grilling each other” on what a merger would look like, and by October they had finalized their plans.

On Jan. 1, the couple’s companies merged and Ms. Herminjard became a co-executive of Marin Sun Farms.

Mr. Evans, a fourth-generation rancher on Point Reyes, founded Marin Sun Farms in 1999 and has since become a leading meat provider in the region. In 2014, he purchased a processing center in Petaluma that’s since become the only certified organic slaughterhouse in the Bay Area. 

Ms. Herminjard established Mindful Meats in 2013 with the intent of providing organic and hormone- and G.M.O.-free beef. The company sources from a network of six small farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties. 

The critical component for Mindful Meats with the merger will be its access to Marin Sun Farm’s processing center. In the past, Ms. Herminjard used a slaughterhouse in Merced. She said Mindful Meats will continue as a separate product line but that the company will have access to Marin Sun Farms’ distribution fleet.

Mr. Evans said the merger will allow Marin Sun Farms to join Mindful Meats in providing food to the Oakland Unified School District and Stanford Hospital, which Mindful Meats has done since 2015.

The pair can also join forces in marketing, hire the same accountant and maintain a single tax record. And “why have two P.O. boxes instead of one?” Mr. Evans asked. 

Ms. Herminjard said the merger will allow Marin Sun Farms to increase production and hire more employees. The duo expects to enlist up to 10 new hires—such as butchers, drivers, production floor managers, packing and inventory supervisors—for their Petaluma processing center. “One thing I care deeply about is transparency,” Ms. Herminjard said. 

“The last piece [for Mindful Meats] was owning the process—when animals went in, how they were processed,” she said. Her company had been steadily growing, she said, but transporting her cows to a slaughterhouse was a challenge. 

In fact, “that was the biggest challenge,” she said. “I happened to really luck out…that my husband was the owner of a U.S.D.A.-approved processing center. If not for that, Mindful Meats would be in a different position. Now we can plug in and focus on the growing market and selling the product. We want to continue pushing the envelope for building sustainability and being first to market.”

Mr. Evans said he is following her lead in a commitment to the “dual purposing” of animals. Ms. Herminjard harvests dairy cows: “Essentially, these types of livestock are older in age and have traditionally been looked at as not as good as animals who have been raised specially as younger, single-purpose meat animals,” she wrote in an email. “We are upcycling these dual-purpose animals showing that there is a lot of value in them as good food produced by our community for our community.”

At the Petaluma processing center, Mr. Evans said that since the merger they are harvesting 80 to 100 cows a week, and expecting the number to grow. They also harvest up to 70 lambs and 50 pigs a week, and up to 15 goats. Marin Sun Farms does not slaughter poultry, instead sending 3,000 chickens to a Modesto processing center each week.

Mr. Evans is excited about the new opportunities presented by the merger, but said, “Our first merger was our marriage and this is an extension of that.” 

Ms. Herminjard added, “Our passion around this facilitated our meeting. It’s a shared purpose and I couldn’t imagine anyone else who I could accomplish this with.”