Meal kit pioneer Blue Apron just snapped up one of its suppliers: Today the startup announced it’s acquiring sustainable meat producer BN Ranch. Founded by rancher Bill Niman, the company has been supplying Blue Apron boxes with grass-fed beef since 2015.
Niman, of course, is best known for Niman Ranch, the niche meat company he founded in the 1970s and sold in 2005. Though it became famous for humanely raised pork and beef, Niman Ranch is now owned by poultry processing behemoth Perdue. Niman cut ties with Niman Ranch in 2014, saying the company’s new owners had shifted its production methods to more closely resemble conventional cattle ranching, and went on to found BN Ranch with his wife Nicolette in 2007.
While Blue Apron now owns the BN Ranch brand, Niman is staying on as the company’s president. According to a press release, “In his new role at Blue Apron, Niman will help the company further develop its animal welfare and husbandry standards for beef, pork, and poultry, and expand its network of farmers, ranchers, and suppliers.” Blue Apron will also begin sourcing additional products from BN Ranch; beyond beef, the company also produces lamb and free-range turkey.
The biggest and most recognizable name in the now staggeringly large meal kit category, Blue Apron has raked in $200 million from investors and as of last fall was valued at $2 billion. Word has circulated for some time that the company would go public, though in December Bloomberg reported the IPO was put on hold so the company could focus on boosting its profit margins.
Though Blue Apron has, at least by Silicon Valley benchmarks, been wildly successful, it’s also faced criticism for using excessive amounts of packaging and for catering to a niche, relatively affluent demographic. Additionally, a 2016 Buzzfeed investigation revealed unsafe working conditions at a Blue Apron production facility in California.