• Otávio Santiago

Hot diggity! Applegate’s Do Good Dog is a regenerative-agriculture first

This story is part of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2022. Explore the full list of innovators who broke through this year—and had an impact on the world around us.

“The hot dog is sort of an ambassador for the company,” says Gina Asoudegan, who for 16 years has helped New Jersey-based Applegate Farms fulfill its mission of “changing the meat we eat.” Although they aren’t Applegate’s top-selling item—chicken nuggets are—hot dogs, with their iconic American food status, have become a showcase for innovation at the company, which sells humanely raised, non-GMO, antibiotic-free deli meats, sausages, burgers, bacon, and cheese in more than 22,600 stores nationwide. (Hormel Foods purchased the company in 2015 for roughly $775 million).

When it landed on grocery shelves last November, the Do Good Dog became the first nationally distributed hot dog “made with beef raised on verified regenerative U.S. grasslands,” the culmination of a years-long effort by Asoudegan to demonstrate that a company of Applegate’s scale could make regenerative agriculture practical and profitable. “When I first started here, we were doing nitrate-free hot dogs, and then antibiotic-free, and then 100% grass-fed organic, and now the hot dog is regenerative,” Asoudegan says.

This last one is a major shift. Unlike organic certification, which is practice-based (growers can’t use chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, etc.), the regenerative certification awarded by Land to Market requires farmers and ranchers to prove that raising animals on their land is actually improving soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function. “It’s a great feedback loop,” Asoudegan says. “When soil is improved, you can raise more food on it.”

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