Last year my good friend and Slowtwitch’s CTO Jordan Rapp wrote an article about Certified Piedmontese – both in the quality of its product and as an example of non-endemic sponsors in triathlon. Today we are going to follow up on what has happened with that sponsorship and we are going to dive into the company a little bit more. Before we get into the meat of the article I want to lay a little groundwork on why this partnership is personally important to me.
If you know me personally or have seen my Instagram account, you will know that I love to cook. I believe my love for cooking started at an early age out of necessity when I was a kid. My mom was never really a good cook (sorry mom) and my dad was super happy with breakfast for dinner (read: bowl of cereal) so proper meals were not really a big thing in our house growing up. That said, I loved to eat. Eating was everything to me. So the way that I looked at it was if I wanted to eat all the food that I wanted to eat, I was going to have to make it myself
When I was 16 and found myself just shy of over 300lbs – through zero fault of my parents – I discovered that my love for food and cooking was starting to become a bit of an issue in my life as it had replaced all emotional things in my life. Fast forward many years later I was able to correct the course and replace those emotional negative habits with more positive ones. I started to understand more about food, myself and the relationship I had with it.
An active lifestyle has always been a passion of mine – even as that 16 year old. I know to some readers that may seem odd, but it was true. I would always be the first kid that wanted to be outside. On a bike, hiking, camping, doing high adventure rope courses, whatever; if it was outdoors and cool, I wanted a piece of it. It just wasn't until about 16 that I discovered that my current life choices were likely to hinder me from doing what I was truly passionate about. This led me down the road of nutritional and emotional discovery.
If we are to look at what humans need in order to survive, food is the 3rd most important thing on the list, behind water and sleep. It’s simple: if you don't have it. you die. So naturally food is something that we all would think about alot. We think about when we are going to get it all the time: every day, probably multiple times a day. But when do we truly think about what we are eating and where is it coming from? As endurance athletes, the majority of us probably think about this way more than the average human getting ready to eat breakfast. That being said, I have been an endurance athlete for over 20 years now and it hasn't been until the last couple of years that this has really mattered to me. I'm sure a lot of that has started in my life because I'm now 42 and, like parents and all of my older friends once told me:
Shit goes south once you turn 40.
Let’s rewind the clock about 18 months or so to July 2021. I'm 41 at the time. Shit has, and is still, going south – both for me and globally – but racing is starting to open back up. Getting back into shape is becoming not only more important but it’s also harder. Meanwhile my BBQ Game is strong. My wife was getting really sick of me trying to learn how to cook brisket on the smoker. I’m in Lake Placid working for IRONMAN, filming for A Fighting Chance, and we are with Dede Griesbauer. It has been a really long time since I had seen her so we probably spent 80% of the time just catching up. While with her we talked about my jealousy of her sponsorship with Certified Piedmontese, and me teasing her about coming back to the light as Dede was a vegetarian back in the day. Twenty minutes later she had convinced me that I needed to try the stuff and she was going to introduce me to them.
Although I was jealous, I also had some reservations. “Grass fed beef. UGH,” I thought. I hated everything I’d tried to that point. People like Jordan have been trying to get me to eat grass fed beef for years. Nope. Every Single time I would try it, it was the same: “Nah. That stuff is gross, corn feed is way better.” So after introductions, and Certified Piedmontese offered to send some of us at Slowtwitch some samples to be honest I wasn't really all that excited. We got it and because it came frozen into the freezer it went. And to be honest I didn't really think much about it until I read Jordan’s piece probably a month later.
Two things really stuck out to me after reading his article. First, where your food is sourced really does matter. And second, people that support us (as in, our community, and an IRONMAN sponsor) should matter too. So out of the freezer it came and on to the BBQ it went. And truth be told, I really liked it. It was sort of like the first time I had an organic egg versus the cheap ones. There’s simply a huge quality and taste difference. So after that I started ordering from them. Our article came out and the marketing department and I started talking – less about a deal or a partnership but really about the quality of the product and what made this beef the only grass fed beef I really liked.
Gravel and gravel triathlon is something that not only is something we here at Slowtwitch are super passionate about. But it’s also something you, our readers, have asked for more of, too – at least, those of you who have filled out our polls over the last 5-6 years, giving us a world of data on overall interest in it but also what distance these races should be. So wanting Shane and the team to be as successful as possible with the race I booked a flight and went out to spend a couple of days at the HQ. Over the course of the next year I would use Dede’s promo code to order products and I started running into the CP team at different events. I’d steal as much Beef Jerky as I could from the sampling booth and I enjoyed a nice hotdog after IRONMAN Des Moines where I met Certified Piedmontese Customer Service Manager Joe Finegan for the first time in person. The conversations would always end up with “When are you going to come out and see HQ” The original plan was for me to go out this spring when the weather was better and it would be easier to see all the farms. But a chance came to visit in December and I took it. Heading out to Lincoln, Nebraska had two purposes for me. First, I had long wanted to go check out headquarters and second Shane Peed, the man behind the brand and a lot of the industry support we have seen, wanted to put on a Gravel Triathlon in Lincoln.
“We can help with that,” I told him.
Couple of things really hit home for me while I was at HQ.There’s a lot of terms that get thrown around when talking about being in control of a product from start to finish (in this case, finish being when the consumer takes control or possession of the product) – speed to sale, track and trace, traceability. The Peed Family takes those very seriously when it comes to their products. And when it comes to beef they control that process 100% of the time. They are truly Track and Trace. The beef they deliver is their beef, it's not some other companies' beef they buy. It's been almost exclusively on their land. The exception is their affiliate's bull program which is basically just them leasing bulls out so the exact same process of raising cattle can be maintained. They DNA hair test every cattle. It's insanely detailed.
Getting this information while I was onsite made it make way more sense to me why, when I used to go to the local grocery store and it would be hit or miss as to why sometimes my steak wasn't as good. It probably came from a different farm with different standards. I remember when I had bought some tomahawks a couple of years back from my local butcher. As I was buying the steaks, the butcher talked about how great they were and how they were from Montana. So the next time I bought some I asked: “are these the same Montana Steaks?” No. They weren’t. This set had come from somewhere in idaho. And they were not as good.
Over the two days I was there, we covered a lot of topics. We talked about sustainability – which we’ll talk about in a follow-up article. We talked about the other products they sell and how their standards compare. We talked about the amazing restaurant in the middle of nowhere Lincoln. We talked about the pivot that the company had with its sponsorship with the IRONMAN Group and how they continue to sponsor in triathlon but how and why they moved into some of the Rock In Rolls series. We also spent a couple of hours over dinner giving birth to the Great Plains Gravel Tri or GPGT as I like to call it. We talked about why Shane wanted to put the race on and how it is meant to be more grass roots and fun more than anything – they have no interest in broad scale event production. So if you live in the midwest or want to travel to the midwest around 08/12/23 It might be something you want to check out.
That visit has made me want to dive deeper into the Certified Piedmontese brand, which we will do over the coming months. For example, why they have chosen to invest into the endurance market and how they are doing things differently from most companies in the meat business. Because these things matter to us. We spend so much time investing to get and maintain health. The foods we eat and where they come from should be considered just as important as the bike we ride or the wetsuit we put on.