Peabody native creates, markets Omega 3 meat
Bernie Hansen grew up in Peabody, spending many formulative hours under the tutelage of then high school agriculture adviser Gary Jones. Now a Flint Hills resident with a pioneering history of meat industry success, Hansen is surprised at how far his interest in agriculture has taken him.
What comes as no surprise is Hansen’s pursuit of success as he embarks on a national marketing campaign to promote his latest product — beef with elevated levels of Omega 3 and dietary benefits rivaling that of wild salmon or the Mediterranean diet.
“I’ve seen over the years how poor diet has led to obesity in America,” Hansen said. “I’ve talked to many consumers and we all want healthier food choices and a healthier lifestyle. We just want it to taste good too.”
Though Hansen has pursued many food-related ventures, his most successful product has been variations of a pre-cooked pot roast, introduced by his company, Flint Hills Foods, in 1995 and bought out by Hormel Foods in 2005.
Hansen developed his original line of products now marketed by Hormel to bring the family back to the supper table with minimal cooking time. Now he hopes to bring tasty traditionals back to the dinner table, with emphasis on beef products with balanced fatty acids — and health benefits that include lower risk factors for heart disease, anti-inflammatories for reduced arthritis and depression, and protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“I’ve been researching this for the past 12 years, with scientists at Kansas State University and other facilities,” Hansen said. “We’ve changed the proprietary formulas of what we feed the animals to create a healthier end product.”
Essentially, Hansen and associates have been looking for a way to reduce the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids and increase Omega 3s. They are doing this by changing what animals eat.
“Most meat animals eat a diet heavy on corn,” Hansen said. “We still have corn in the mix, but we have developed a flax-based feed, that when matched up with changes in animal protocol, increases fatty acids in the meat.”
Until now, Omega-3 fatty acids, needed by the human body to work normally, were known to come from certain types of fish and plants such as flax.
Experts recommend that people should eat fish at least once a week to get adequate levels of Omega 3, but some fish carry toxins or high levels of contaminants. Studies show grass-fed animals produce meat with higher levels of Omega 3s than grain-fed animals.
“I am certainly not opposed to meat from grass-fed animals,” Hansen said. “But for some people it just has a different taste, and I don’t think we have enough pasture-land nationwide to supply enough of it to meet demand. What we are doing with our research is balancing the animal diet and changing the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. This creates a healthier meat that still tastes good.”
While Hansen said the focus on meat from his company, Naturally Better with Omega 3, was beef, he has plans to expand into dairy, cheese, goat, and even pork markets.
“We are building a complete profile,” he said. “We are working toward getting that bacon double-cheeseburger to a healthy rating and teaching people that Omega 3s don’t have to smell and taste like fish!”
Hansen said the biggest resistance to selling healthy Omega-3-enhanced meats was convincing retailers to carry the products.
“They don’t want to risk a shorter shelf life on a product, but we have proven that consumers like healthier choices. We put an 800 number on our products and consumers are calling, telling us our ground beef is the best tasting ever.”
Hansen markets his Omega 3 beef with Brandtricity, a San Antonio, Texas firm.
He said that feeding cattle with better feed not only creates a better end product but also improves the life of the animals.
“We’ve proven that if you start with the cow and feed our flax-based ration, the calf has immunity to a lot of inflammatory diseases,” he said. “Not only are we making animals lives better, we are improving health across the whole spectrum.”
Hansen credits his interest in agriculture and in good health to his roots in Peabody.
“Both of my granddads lived their whole lives in Peabody,” he said. “One of them had a ruptured ulcer at the age of 60. He went to the Peabody Auction and bought a goat. He drank goat milk for the rest of his life and lived to be 97-years-old. I am actually very interested in working with goat products too.”
Hansen said he has heard similar health success stories from people who eat diets with balanced Omega-3 fatty acids.
“It is what consumers want,” he said. “It is what I am trying to provide.”