When EPIC Provisions launched its meat bars back in 2013, people didn’t quite know what to make of them. But before long, this little mission-driven company from Austin, Texas, had made a ginormous impact. Health-minded shoppers began devouring EPIC’s convenient protein-rich, grain-free, dairy-free meat bars while applauding its highly ethical sourcing methods and mission to improve animal-rearing practices.

Looking to use all parts of the animal, EPIC expanded into animal fat-based cooking oils last year. Its Duck Fat Cooking Oil snagged the NEXTY Award (a highly sought-after award in the natural products industry) for Best New Condiment. Delicious Living sat down with Taylor Collins, who cofounded EPIC with his wife, Katie Forrest, to discuss EPIC’s past, present and future—and the future he envisions for meat production.

What was the genesis of EPIC?

Taylor Collins: Well, it was certainly an unlikely turn of events in our lives. Katie and I owned a vegan raw foods company called Thunderbird. At the time, we were both raw-food vegans and thought that was the best way to optimize our health and wellness. We were training for Ironmans, marathons and big bike races. But over time, we just weren’t able to recover and were having chronic injuries. My wife was constantly having gastrointestinal problems and chronic inflammation. The breaking point came when we were ramping up for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and physically could not train. We went to every medical professional in town and nobody could figure it out. We had no other options to turn to, so we began questioning our diets.

And that’s when you began reconsidering meat?

TC: We found a holistic naturopath who prescribed cooked vegetables and high-quality animal proteins and fats. We did a 180-degree flip with our diet, and it was unbelievably game-changing. Within a week of transitioning, years and years of chronic symptoms went away. That was when we realized there was a void in the market. Convenient high-quality meat didn’t exist, so we started EPIC.

We always hear “eat less meat” for health and environmental reasons. But you believe meat can be an important part of the diet and not necessarily harmful to the Earth. Is it tricky to get this message across?

TC: Yes, but it was much more challenging in 2013. When we first showed up at Expo West, I don’t remember seeing another meat brand there. The natural foods community was very much “there is no place for meat here” because it is trying to promote health and responsible farming. I won’t say all meat is good. The way the majority of it is produced is destructive for all. Feed lots should be illegal. But meat has gotten a very bad rap because, for the last 50 years, it has been industrialized. People wanted meat cheap and very consistent, and there have been unintended consequences of that. We are basically challenging this notion and saying there is a wrong and a right way to raise an animal. If you do it right, it’s a win-win-win. We hope to inspire a change of practices.

What is the right way to raise animals for meat? And how do you ensure that the meat you source has been raised responsibly?

TC: We have developed an internal supplier protocol within our business. If anyone wants to sell us meat, they are measured to our gold standard, which is regenerative agriculture. This involves looking at diverse ecosystems, migratory species and animal welfare standards. All ruminant animals are grass-fed, consuming the diets they are biologically intended to eat. They have access to pasture and are allowed to roam freely so they can express their natural innate behaviors. Also, they have the regenerative ability to impact the ecosystem. When that’s the case, it’s a net positive for the animals, the ecosystem and the consumer, who is eating nourishing food.