If January is typically associated with increased attention to our health and wellness, the past couple years have felt like a calendar full of Januaries. The ongoing presence of a pandemic has underscored the importance of putting our personal health front and center more than ever. From mental health days to Pelotons, in-home air purifiers to intermittent fasting, we are embracing an invigorated role in our own wellness.
As the saying about necessity’s role in invention goes, it’s also been the inspiration for entrepreneurial ventures into the wellness space. Case in point: Former marketing professional Neda Faraji, founder of Ossum Broth. A victim of a COVID-era layoff, she found herself at home and exploring ways to stay healthy as the world grappled with an ominous new virus. “I was just thinking during the pandemic, ‘I’ve got to keep my immunity up,’” the Rancho Santa Fe resident recalls, which led her to thinking about another time in her life when health was paramount. “When I was pregnant, I remember my doctor telling me that bone broth was probably one of the best things that I could drink for my immune system, for the baby, for my recovery.” It kickstarted her journey of research and discovery into the numerous benefits of this thousand-year-old food-as-medicine.
“It really is an ancient remedy,” she says. “It’s one of the most bio-available sources of collagen as well as protein that your body can consume.” She was astonished at how it was valued for its health properties even in primitive times, and even more so by how powerful a simple broth could truly be with extensive benefits including bone- and muscle-building nutrients, digestive remedies, anti-inflammatory properties, joint health, and even weight management.
Publicly posting her exploration and discoveries, and ultimately, her own production of bone broth, Faraji was surprised at the attention she received. “It all kind of happened with me at home when I was sharing it on social media during the pandemic, and then I realized that there were people reaching out to me from very interesting demographics wanting to buy it, and wanting to buy it in bulk,” she says. “I started to pay attention to the kinds of people who were buying it. I had cancer patients buying it, and I later found out that a lot of cancer patients don’t really have the appetite to want to eat, but their bodies need all these nutritional benefits. I found out it was personal trainers, and that they would drink it before and after workouts instead of a protein powder because of how bioavailable it is. Pregnant women, doulas, midwives… I never thought about selling it; it just little by little became a ‘thing.’”
As demand increased and Ossum Broth took shape, Faraji secured a commercial kitchen to prepare her recipe in big batches and sourced the best beef bones to be its base from local farm Da-Le Ranch. She estimates she pays about $13-15 per gallon on the bone alone. “The bone is so important,” she emphasizes, noting their bioaccumulation properties. “If you have an animal that has a weak diet or is on land that might have heavy metals in it or is just living a distressed life, that all is going to determine what type of bone you end up with. If you have a happy animal, you have a happy bone.”
Far from being as simple as dunking discarded bones into a pot of boiling water, Faraji’s is an 18-hour process of simmering on low heat after first boiling the bone to remove any residual toxins. Only then is the broth ready to either be delivered — Ossum offers limited local delivery — or sold at pickup points in La Jolla and Encinitas, when it’s still hot off the kettle. Eventually, a small retail location is part of a bigger, future plan.
All that goes into something as simple as broth might seem extreme, but not to Faraji. “I think that with bone broths, a lot of people — and I was one of those people — go to the store and buy the boxed broth,” she says, but warns, “If you walk into a grocery store, you’ll see that everything as far as bone broth goes is in a box on an unrefrigerated shelf. And that’s very similar to buying chicken on an unrefrigerated shelf. Bone broth is something that should always be refrigerated or frozen, and if it’s on a shelf, it’s likely that there’s something that’s keeping it on a shelf — shelf stabilizers or preservatives, that type of thing — which really strips away the nutritional benefits of bone broth.”
Whether it’s sipped or used in recipes, there’s one point Faraji wants to make perfectly clear: scrap the packaged broths that she sees as a weak stand-in for the real thing. As she puts it, “It’s like drinking
Hi-C when you could be drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice.” And let her do the (18 hours of) cooking for you. ossumbroth.com