The Perils Of Becoming A Cog

I’ve been thinking about cogs lately.

There’s a reason.

Cogs are important in many machines. They help make things run smoothly. And, when cogs break, the machine grinds to a stop. Cogs are generally hidden. And, in many cases, they are easily interchangeable. In a sense, they have come to epitomize the faceless, nameless elements in a large machine. After all, the iconic scene in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times featured cogs to represent the modern industrialized world.

Bison should never be just a cog.

We’ve built our business because our customers appreciate the special qualities of the meat our animals produce: flavorful, healthy, and sustainably raised. Our customers have demonstrated that they are willing to pay a reasonable premium for those qualities.

And, as the popularity of bison meat has grown, more packaged food companies are searching out bison as an ingredient in their products. After all, bison adds a certain cache that distinguishes products from their competitors.

Many of the companies are actively developing partnerships with ranchers and helping to tell the story of how the animals were raised. That’s a good thing.

But packaged food companies—like bison ranchers—must be profitable to succeed. As the management of each company works to build their market share, they closely examine every facet of their product, including the cost of goods…COGs. Every new ingredient added to a product sparks a question around the board table: “How does that impact our COGs?”

Our challenge is to never become just a COG. We’ve worked hard to build the reputation, and to tell the story, of bison as a wholesome, premium product. Packaged food companies are adding bison to their products because of that reputation.

We have to make sure that we never let that reputation tarnish. And, make sure that our partners in the food industry know that bison is not just a cost of goods, but a benefit to the final product.