Rob Engelhart and Phil Gatto are probably the type of neighbors you would want living near your farm or ranch. Honest, hard-working entrepreneurs who show respect for both land an animals.
Unfortunately, they’ve succumbed to the lure of professional marketing and PR tactics to promote their business. The result is dishonest and misleading claims that further alienate the meat eaters among us who’ve never stepped foot in a barn lot or have any desire to do so.
Indeed, True Story™ Foods must be in the running for most inaccurately named food company of the year. That opinion is based solely on the press release distributed with the following headline: “Ditch the Chemical-Laced, GMO Hot Dogs this BBQ Season -- Get The True Story™ About Organic Hot Dogs.”
Let’s skip over the “chemical-laced, GMO hot dogs” for a moment. Why would anyone with a smidge of knowledge about meat think True Story can enlighten us about organic hot dogs?
Actually, Engelhart and Gatto probably can. According to a feature in the Vacaville, Calif., newspaper The Reporter, the partners grew up in the meat business in the Bay Area near San Francisco, and “they feel their Fairfield, CA-based brand of organic meats reflects the qualities of their families’ businesses.”
That account was published last October when True Story Foods announced expansion plans aimed at taking the brand national.
Engelhart’s grandfather started Home Sausage in 1928 in San Francisco. “My grandfather showed me how to make sausage by hand when I was 5 years old,” he told The Reporter.
Gatto grew up learning to make salami in his family’s San Francisco company and worked his way up to president of Columbus Foods until it sold in 2006.
So, yes, Engelhart and Gatto are likely outstanding butchers and sausage makers. And, like good businessmen, they stick to making sausage and hire a professional to help with sales. We know this because the press release with the aforementioned insulting headline doesn’t quote the business’ owners, but rather its VP of Marketing. That would be Kathryn Winstanley, who boldly states, "Our hot dogs are a lot different than the ones I had growing up; wholesome, gluten-free, Non-GMO and never with anything artificial added. These are the hot dogs you can be proud of, whether you are a San Francisco Yogi or Dad at a tailgate party."
Now back to the “chemical-laced, GMO” aspect – and, yeah, the “gluten-free” comment, too. Those are buzz words any PR person knows will generate positive vibes from today’s consumer. But, wait, there’s more.
The lead of the press release informs us “the lowest quality of these types of food – laced with chemicals and additives – barely even qualify for the name and more resemble something like a science project.” (Of course, nobody would eat a science project. Yuck!)
“The good news is that True Story, makers of Organic or Project Non-GMO Certified meats have the solution to this problem well-handled.” (Please, tell us how it’s handled.)
“The company provides a healthy alternative this hot dog season with their famous Organic Grass-Fed Beef Hot Dogs, perfect for fun times at the grill this summer. The only 'additives' you'll get with these hot dogs are the ones you want, like good ol' mustard and relish.” (For the full-effect, please use non-GMO, gluten-free mustard and relish.)
The bottom line is I have not tasted any of True Story’s products. I suspect, however, they are excellent. My issue – the one that should make you angry – is that True Story takes the low road, the easy path in selling its meats. Throughout the press release I found no reference – NONE – to the quality and craftsmanship of True Story meats. That should be front and center.
Instead, this is the company’s published mission: “True Story believes in a future of food that is a return to what is real and true.” (Huh??) “A future that is respectful of the source of our food – the soil, the animals, and the farmers.” (We can all agree.) “True Story is nurturing a community of family farmers, artisan producers, progressive retailers, and food lovers who are dedicated to this future.” (Quality. What about Quality?)
Let’s be clear. If you’re in the business of raising, butchering and marketing food animals with an attribute – natural, grass-fed, organic, arsenic-free or tucked-in-bed-with-nursery-rhymes – more power to you! I can support all your efforts to provide consumers with a safe, wholesome product.
But you’ve crossed a line when you imply conventionally raised beef, pork or poultry is unhealthy or unsafe. There’s no science that supports such claims. Just the scaremongering of PR hacks.