Our Story




What if you weren’t afraid to read the ingredients on a hot dog package? Or better yet, what if you weren’t afraid to know where the meat in your hot dog came from? These questions were the inspiration behind Applegate.

I grew up in the meat and potatoes era of the 1950s, when a meal wasn’t a meal without meat. However, when I went away to college in the ‘70’s, my ideas about food expanded. There, I was exposed to vegetarianism, macrobiotics, and food gurus. In the co-op I belonged to, we bought granola, yogurt, and grains in bulk, and ate them with local fruits and vegetables. While I appreciated the quality and health benefits of these foods, I still craved meat.

While shopping one day, I saw nitrite-free bacon and had an epiphany: I could feel good about eating meat if it didn’t contain ingredients I knew were bad for me. Meat and I were reunited.

In my 20s I tried my hand at a number of different jobs, none of which satisfied my desire to build something from the ground up. I started looking for a business to grow and stumbled upon Jugtown Smokehouse through a combination of intuition and serendipity. At the time, Jugtown was a family owned business specializing in nitrite-free bacon (de ja-vu!). While it bore no resemblance to what Applegate is today, I could see its potential. I also knew there had to be more people out there who would appreciate healthy meat products, and decided to buy the business.

As it turns out, countless people have a love/hate relationship with meat and are thrilled to find products they can finally feel good about eating. People like you have helped build Applegate over the last 25 years. With that support, you’ve helped preserve the nearly 1,000 farms that supply us with humanely raised meat that is free from antibiotics or hormones.

So…What if you weren’t afraid to read the ingredients on a hot dog package? Like me, you’d feel better about eating them, and serving them to your family. That simple idea has always been, and will continue to be, what drives Applegate. From our table to yours, thank you for joining the movement.

Stephen McDonnell and the Applegate Crew