There is a grassroots movement underway advocating for us to get back to regenerative farming. Farmland (and the ecosystem generally) is suffering greatly with mass industrial agriculture.

Regenerative farming means using a system of farming principles and practices that aim to repair the damage we’ve done to the earth by rehabilitating and enhancing the entire ecosystem.

There’s also a debate about whether we should be eating meat. A debate about our ethics, planet, and our health. What if we are debating the wrong thing? What if the animals we are blaming for climate change are actually the key to fixing what is broken?

There is an excellent documentary called Sacred Cow. Created by Diana Rogers, it explores the case for (better) meat, and repairing our damaged environment.

This post outlines the issues discussed in the movie. You can find out more at the sacred cow website.

Common Assumptions About Meat

Many assumptions are made about meat, led by animal activists and the vegan movement.

  • Red meat causes cancer, obesity and heart disease.
  • We’re eating too much meat.
  • Humans don’t need to consume animal products to be healthy.
  • Raising livestock is bad for the environment.
  • It’s unethical to eat animals.
  • If we can produce meat in labs, then why should we eat animals?

The connection between nutrition and ecosystem health is starting to make some headway into mainstream media. Everyone is trying to figure out how to feed the world in the most sustainable and healthy way.

However, we’ve allowed corporate interest, big food, flawed science, click-bait media and naïve celebrities to steer us away from what a truly nutrient-dense, ethical and sustainable, and regenerative food system really is.

The mantra that ‘all meat is bad’ influences how dietitians are trained, shaping our dietary guidelines, designing school lunch policies, and funding for nutrition-related research.

Commercial Agriculture

Corn, soybeans, and wheat are the three biggest US commercial crops. They are genetically modified and sprayed with chemicals. Quality is not important to the farmers compared to the yield they can get.

As the emphasis is placed on the quantity of crop production, the nutritional quality diminishes. This is causing a decline in human health but also the economic prosperity of farmers.

Grain prices are subject to the commodity market. The average farmer in the US is losing money in crop production. On top of that, they are using chemical and synthetic fertilisers and degrading and eroding the soil and surrounding ecosystems.

monoculture crop

Where Did it Start?

The current industrial agricultural system in the US stems from post WW2 when an increased demand for food collided with a new era of scientific discovery.

There were food shortages, so chemical fertilisers and pesticides were used to enhance crop sizes and yields. This liberated farmers from the traditional farming methods of growing crops in a field and then, once harvested, allowing cattle to graze that land – this is mixed farming.

Now we have chemical-assisted monocultures. This has separated crop production from livestock production and has had profound consequences for the way we produce food.

Middle America is now predominantly corn and soy crops, these are both monocultures.

Biodiversity is Gone

Livestock have also been separated from each other. But as they are live beings, they cannot be subject to the same kind of mechanical farming as plants. They need more space, but they don’t get it, therefore there is an increase in the use of battery farms. This is not the answer.

The Old Way of Farming

Traditional farming methods allowed animals grazing on farmland, their waste would help fertilise the soil to produce more healthy crops. Now, in battery farms, there is a concentrate of waste that needs to be removed as it is too much for one location to handle.

regenerative farming - cows grazing

The Processed Food Revolution

The agricultural revolution has developed into the processed foods revolution. Food has become more abundant. Large food companies employ scientists to work on how to make food more convenient, more desirable and more addictive to keep you coming back for more. This was the genesis of processed foods and still continues today.

Decades ago, sugar was starting to be added to more things like sodas, and TV dinners were created. The aim was to increase the shelf life of foods so more sugar and salt were added.

Food has been designed to be addictive by the food industry.
This is an intentional act.

Dr Mark Hyman

Sugar is Addictive

Our brains are wired in a way that makes us seek out calorie dense, highly rewarding foods. Rewarding means wanting to do it over and over again. Sugar stimulates your appetite and your body has no ‘off switch’ to say when you’ve had enough.

The Impact on Our Health

One unintended consequence of this now unlimited supply of processed foods is our failing health. It’s no secret why obesity rates are rising in line with the advent of processed foods.

Highlight: Farmers have known for thousands of years that if you want to fatten up your livestock, you put them in a confined space and feed them grains. The same effect is happening to humans.

Instead of warning people about the dangers of processed foods, the government tells us to eat less fat. The current dietary guidelines of many governments around the world are used by doctors, nutritionists, dieticians to set eating guidelines for the general population. It is also used to set school lunch programs and hospital food menus.

The amount of carbohydrates, including sugar, can easily reach ½ cup for one meal. Carbohydrates do not fill you up, in fact, they make you want more.

If you mainly stick to eating foods that have minimal processing, you will do OK. Always aim to eat whole, unprocessed foods. But when you start consuming highly processed foods with lots of appealing flavour combinations, that’s when people find it difficult to avoid overeating.

Standard American Diet (SAD)

The Standard American Diet mantra is to eat less fat, less cholesterol, and less red meat. The result of this is a large portion of the population is now obese, suffering from diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That messaging has not worked for our health.

The low-fat message has led to further declines in health. The blame for heart disease and other ailments shifted to read meat as the culprit.

We now know that processed foods are to blame for our modern illnesses as opposed to meat which humans have been eating for 3.5 million years.

Another unintended consequence of the food industry is compromised morality. Producing meat fast and cheap comes at a high price on animal welfare.

It has created a divide between animal activists and ethically conscience animal farmers and butchers.

The third unintended consequence of the miracle of industrialised agriculture is our depleted soil. All deep soils on the planet developed under prairies due to the herbivores that grazed the land.

How Did Grazing Animals Help the Land?

Look at nature when left to its own devices:

  • Animals were always moving
  • Animals moved in mobs and herds to keep safe from predators
  • The animals are mowing and pruning plants and fertilising the soil as they graze

How do we Duplicate this Process Domestically?

Recreating this natural process can be done with regenerative farming. By using mobile electric fencing, moved daily, for ease of herding and mobbed grazing.

Moving cattle frequently through small sections of a field is called managed or mobbed grazing. It mirrors how animals graze in nature, allowing cows to naturally fertilise the soil and giving the grass time to recover.

After cows, the sheep are moved to the paddock, then the chickens come through and eat all the worms and bugs feeding on the cattle waste, and finally, the paddock is left fallow for planting crops. This process is rotated through each paddock and then repeated.

This management style contrasts with the more common practice of allowing animals access to an entire pasture for the season, leading to over or under-grazed sections, more exposed soil and less healthy animals.

The problem is not resources, the problem is management

What About the Methane?

Methane from cows does not overly contribute to climate change. Biogenic methane (from cows) is part of a natural biological cycle. The methane goes up, and is then broken down into CO2 and water. That water is a component of water vapour in a cycle that creates rain and the CO2 is taken up by plants for photosynthesis. Even though the methane is going up in the air, it is also building carbon below the ground. It’s offsetting the methane that is going up. It’s a natural biogenic cycle.

methane claims against cattle

Good grazing also helps soil retain water, something industrialised cropping (monoculture) cannot do. Regenerative farming uses cows being grazed on degraded land. This one simple action will help restore it back to being original habitat for local animals.

Sustainable Livestock to Help Feed the World

800 million humans do not receive adequate nutrition, this is not sustainable for future population growth. Ruminant animal agriculture is a fundamental part of the way forward to ensure enough food supply for the world’s population.

One of the most profound ecological principles that exists is life, death, decomposition then regeneration. That is the cornerstone of the entire ecological process.

We need to recognise that the earth has these systems and we need to understand those systems and try to mimic and mirror those systems in our food production. When we do that, we will have global ecological health as well as personal, individual health.

Many farmers who are practicing industrialised farming methods are beginning to adopt regenerative farming methods to save their farms and the soil for future generations.

A common question about regenerative farming is “Can we really feed the world this way?”

The answer is yes, we can, in fact it’s the only way we can feed the world because the current system is so environmentally degrading, it’s deteriorating faster than we can feed ourselves.

Farmers around the world are adopting regenerative farming methods, healing the land and providing vital nutrition for humans. This is how humans are supposed to eat.

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