Regenerative farmed meats is a sustainable shift we can all live with. Animals are treated humanely, and carnivores can still get there a taste of meat periodically. We can't ignore that many people worldwide will still choose to eat meat and have no intention to stop. So why not approach meat-eating in a healthier way that works long term. Industrialized mass meat production is inhumane, thanks to many movies and publications bringing it to our attention. Recent studies have also shown the negative impact it has on the environment. Many recommend that we should decrease our meat intake to once a week or even less. At the same time, others feel that switching to a plant-based diet is the only choice for ethical and environmental reasons. But for the large percentage of people still incorporating meat into their diet, a positive step would be to eat meat raised sustainably.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a term used to describe agricultural practices that focus on the health of the ecological system as a whole and not solely on the crop yield. It is more than organic, and needs to follow a trendier set of farming and processing practices:
- Minimize soil disturbance by not turning over the soil. This is considered no tillage and it protects the beneficial bacteria fungus and other organisms that are key to healthy soil.
- Maximize crop diversity by rotating and planting a wide variety of crops which helps to replenish nutrients and disrupts lifecycles of pests and disease.
- Keep the soil covered by having cover crops to protect the soil after harvest so it's not prone to blow or wash away.
- Maintain living roots year-round by planting a second cash crop that will create a web of roots to stop the soil from eroding.
- Integrate livestock where cattle and other grazing animals can stimulate new plant growth and add beneficial manure to the soil - an exceptionally beneficial ecosystem.
A sustainable solution towards regenerative agriculture means integrating LIVESTOCK. They serve a purpose in a healthy ecosystem.
What are the long term benefits of buying meat from a Regenerative Farm?
Ninety-five percent of our food comes from topsoil and soil plays a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water. Unless new practices are adopted, the amount of arable land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of that in 1960. The message is clear: we must stop depleting the soil and start farming in ways that renew it. Healthy, living soil has the potential to pull and store tons of carbon from the atmosphere; studies show that use of regenerative agriculture practices worldwide could sequester 50 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the course of a century. In fact, some people use the term regenerative agriculture synonymously with “carbon farming.”
The United Nations estimates that with current farming practices, the world only has bout 60 years of topsoil left!
Factory farmed animals are subjected to terrible conditions. Factory Farm Meat: Why Vegetarians, Ranchers, and Conscious Omnivores Need to Unite was written five years ago, but much of what is shared in that article still stands true today. Factory farmed meats still exist in supermarkets, and many restaurants still serve the consumer's knowledge. This is where the power of our purchase makes a difference. By learning what questions to ask your butcher, you can refuse to buy or eat anything less than what your conscience allows. When you have a choice, why eat inhumanely raised meat when you don't have to eat meat at all! When you know you will have another meal within the next few hours or days, you can choose only from a regenerative farm if you want meat.
How do I purchase meat from Regenerative Farms?
If purchasing meat online, use this Regeneration International Guide to narrow down your sources. There are many to choose from, so be mindful to pick sources that are closer to home and support your community. One of TMF's favorite picks is Tru-Beef Organic, the first carbon-neutral meat company in North America that passionately practices regenerative farming.
You can even find farms that take it one step further and share a detailed analysis of their practices - Belcampo Sustainability Report !
With so many companies getting into regenerative agriculture – and with so many labels already out there – it can be hard to know what to look for. Because regenerative agriculture is a holistic system, including not just environmental concerns, but animal and worker issues as well, look for products that carry several labels - beef that is organic, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and certified by the American Grassfed Association.
When purchasing meat from a supermarket look for labels that show AGA certification.
Foodprint shares a Food Label Guide for Beef, Pork, and Chicken. It will help you better understand labels so you choose from the things that matter to you the most - animal welfare, environmental sustainability or even fair wages for workers.
The Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), which is in a pilot phase with almost 20 companies certified, aims to simplify the field with a single label that incorporates strong standards of soil health and land management, animal welfare, and social fairness for farmers and workers. Its certification standards encompass being USDA Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Non-GMO Project verified, and others. ROC labels will minimize the confusion consumers presently face when trying to buy meat from a regenerative farm.
For now, don't be shy to ask your local butcher or supermarket butcher what farm the meat is sourced from. If it isn't labeled, don't hesitate to ask! You can later research the farm further online and, if not satisfied, share your concerns with the butcher. With higher demand for quality sourced meats, the butcher will make the necessary changes.
But remember - less meat is nearly always better than sustainable meat, to reduce your carbon footprint!
What meat has the lowest carbon footprint?
This chart was put together using worldwide data from 2018. You can see there are many levels of GHG emissions from land use, farming, feed, transport, and packaging. You can see that Beef once again tops the charts! Take a look and ask yourself, what can I reduce or omit from my diet?
For further depth about the effects of meat and dairy on our environment, read an article by World Resource Institute, High Meat, and Dairy Consumption Creates a Large Footprint.
Here in the United States, we consume a lot of meat and dairy. The average American man consumes almost 100 grams of protein a day, nearly twice as much as he needs. About two-thirds of that protein comes from meat and dairy. As a result, the U.S.-style diet’s environmental footprint—in terms of land required to grow the food and the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted each year from producing it—is nearly twice as high as the world average. Meat and dairy production (shown in red, orange and yellow in the chart below) account for nearly 85 percent of the GHG emissions and 90 percent of the agricultural land use associated with the average American diet. About half of the emissions and land use are from beef alone (shown in red).
Switching from beef to chicken or pork can significantly reduce emissions. Replacing some chicken and pork with beans, lentils, or soy can reduce them further still. And better yet, these “low-impact” foods tend to be cheaper (per gram of protein) than high-impact proteins like beef and lamb.
From the diagram above, you can see that beef, lamb, and goat produce the most significant GHG emissions. They are also the priciest per gram of protein. They are the biggest culprits and therefore should be cut back in diets to battle climate change.
Quick Tips to Eating Meat the Eco-Flexitarian Way:
- Purchase and eat meat only from a good source. Ask if from a regenerative farm - whether buying online or at a butcher store.
- Don't make meat the main part of your meal - whatever portion size you are accustomed to eating, reduce to half that size.
- Choose one or none - beef, lamb, or goat once a month or on special occasions.
- Make your choice and eat either poultry, pork, or cheese once a week.
- Focus on eating eggs, nuts, soy, fish, beans, grains that are organic and sustainably sourced.
- Get creative with meal planning and "cheat with meat" with one choice to eat meat: at one meal a week, when dining out, while traveling, with friends or with family on a holiday.
You will find you feel better over time with less meat in your diet while simultaneously doing a great thing for animals and our planet!
Visit The Mindful Fork Community page where our contributors share more helpful tips on resourcing meat and plant-based alternatives!
And remember - MINDFUL MEAT if you must eat meat!