Episode 215: How Regenerative Meat Can Heal the Planet
CEO Robby Sansom on Forming a Better Food Relationship & The Truth About the Food Pyramid ” | Regenerative meat’s impact on health & the planet
This content was inspired by a conversation with Robbie Sansom, CEO of Force of Nature
“I have this notion that I think work-life balance is bullshit. I think the implication that there’s two opposing forces on a scale, and in order to gain in one avenue it has to come at the expense of another, is the wrong ideal to set that there’s a give and take in the things that you’re gonna do, and frankly, you spend more waking hours on average for, on an eight to five working than you do at home.
So you lose. It’s came over from the day that you buy into that dogma. And I feel more along the lines of work-life, synergy or congruency. The consumer is so powerful in this economy and you look over, through all through history and time and you look at how movements of people can change the course of history.
And I think we’re in one of those really unique moments where I think consumers just need to know the truth and transparency. And I think if we give them that and then we demonstrate that, hey, there is an outlet that actually offers the things that you already value and that you already thought you were getting, and this is what it looks like and it’s called regenerative.
And I can explain more that many consumers would choose that path.”
CEO Robby Sansom on Forming a Better Food Relationship & The Truth About the Food Pyramid
In today’s blog, I have the pleasure of introducing Robbie Sansom, one of the co-founders of Force of Nature, a regenerative meat company. With the growing buzz around regenerative agriculture, it’s crucial to understand its educational component. Despite currently representing less than 1% of farming and animal protein practices in our country, the profound positive impacts of regenerative farming on our planet and health cannot be denied.
Robbie sheds light on how regenerative practices can restore ecosystems, improve soil health, and reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, we delve into the remarkable benefits of consuming regenerative meat, such as higher nutrient density and a more sustainable approach to animal protein consumption.
Many of us may feel resigned to the current state of affairs, with vast monocropping and questionable treatment of animals. However, Robbie’s unique perspective is truly inspiring and leaves us feeling hopeful about the future. If you’ve ever wondered how to embrace regenerative practices or why they are essential, this conversation will provide valuable insights.
It’s crucial for all of us to become informed and educated so that we can make conscious choices with our spending. Contrary to popular belief, supporting regenerative practices doesn’t have to break the bank. I firmly believe that access to good food, vegetables, and overall health should never be out of reach for anyone.
While it may require some extra effort, collectively, we have the power to make a significant impact by voting with our dollars. Just as we’ve seen recently with issues getting politicized, this is an opportunity for us to come together, regardless of our politics or dietary preferences. By nurturing and restoring our soil and planet and treating animals in a more humane manner, we can prioritize our own personal health as well.
Regenerative meat’s impact on health & the planet
You can’t help but contemplate the profound impact regenerative practices have on our health. It feels like an extension of our personal well-being, encompassing both the physical and mental aspects that define us as individuals.
Specifically, the intersection of regenerative practices, animals, meat production, and their connection to the health of our planet is particularly intriguing. While many of us have a vague understanding of regenerative farming and its benefits, there is still so much to learn and discover in this field.
One aspect that is particularly fascinating is the role of food in our lives. It is undeniably one of the most challenging elements to navigate when it comes to maintaining good health, even for those who are conscious of their choices. It seems to be an ongoing journey, constantly evolving as we strive to prioritize our well-being.
It’s no secret that we have somehow lost touch with our food. We no longer have the deep-rooted relationship with food that our ancestors once had. Whether it’s the experience of sourcing our food, the form it takes, or the way it nourishes us, we find ourselves distanced from what it truly means to be human.
This growing disconnect between us and our food has far-reaching consequences for our health. As we drift further away from our natural connection with food, we witness our well-being suffer as a result. It’s disheartening to think about how much we’ve let slip through our fingers while neglecting the profound impact it has on our overall health.
However, there is ample room for exploration and introspection in this area. Regenerative practices offer a glimmer of hope, representing a potential path towards reestablishing our bond with food and reclaiming our health.
Challenging conventional thinking in food
In today’s world, the topic of food values has become a contentious issue. It seems like everyone has an opinion on how one should eat, which can create divisions and conflicts among people. But amidst this, there are those who have managed to navigate through the noise and adapt to new perspectives.
One such example is the brand Epic, which has undergone a remarkable transformation based on their evolving beliefs and values. Initially, they were performance athletes who followed the conventional wisdom and guidance surrounding nutrition and health. They even explored vegetarian and vegan diets, as these approaches were gaining popularity at the time.
The nutrition and health influencers of the era were promoting the benefits of plant-based diets, highlighting the importance of sustainability and ethical considerations. And for a while, Epic embraced these values, finding joy in the positive impact it had on the land, animal welfare, and human consumption habits. The brand became a reflection of these elevated ideals, resonating with a growing community of like-minded individuals.
However, as time went on, Epic encountered health issues related to their vegan diet. They experienced gastrointestinal problems and inflammation that were not in line with the promised benefits. Realizing that a change was necessary, they made the decision to reintroduce animal-based proteins into their diet. To their surprise, this shift brought about significant and immediate improvements in their well-being.
This revelation challenged the commonly held belief that meat consumption couldn’t coexist with positive outcomes for ecosystems, communities, and individual health. Epic discovered that it was possible to enjoy animal-based protein while still supporting systems that promote animal welfare, sustainable ecosystems, and the overall well-being of consumers.
And so, the ethos of Epic was born. It became a brand that sought to redefine the narrative around meat consumption, fostering a deeper understanding of its potential benefits when approached with consciousness and care. During this transitional period, the paths of Epic and the author of this story intersected.
And that’s where Robbie Sansom comes in. Robbie joined forces with Epic at a crucial moment when the company was transitioning from a vegan-focused venture to a meat bar brand. The founders recognized the immense potential and growth of their new direction but needed help in scaling the business. A partnership was formed, driven by the shared vision of challenging conventional thinking around meat and transforming food systems and supply chains.
This opportunity proved to be more inspiring than any traditional academic or finance-related job. It was a chance to make a real impact and pave the way for a new paradigm in the food industry. Although there were challenges along the way, such as financial difficulties early on, the journey has been a rewarding one.
The Journey from Epic to Force of Nature: Shifting Perspectives and Elevating Standards
The opportunity to create a massive positive impact through small shifts in our habits is undeniably encouraging and exciting. It may sound strange, but it seems that when we have access to high-quality, nutrient-dense food, we naturally eat less of it. Whether it’s receiving hunted game or consuming products from brands like Force of Nature, there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with consuming what our bodies truly need.
The concept of animals intuitively knowing what to eat without the guidance of written texts, science, or health classes is fascinating. Fred Provenza, a notable figure in this field, explores this notion in his book “Nourishment.” It suggests that just like animals, humans possess a similar innate wisdom regarding our nutritional needs. When we consume nutritionally dense food, we require less of it to meet our requirements.
Scientifically speaking, this idea holds weight. If our carrots, for example, have only a fraction of the desired nutrients, our bodies will signal us to eat more of them than necessary. So, when we consume food that meets our nutritional needs, we find ourselves satisfied with smaller quantities.
Building a Better Relationship with Food: Embracing Regenerative Practices
When it comes to sourcing high-quality protein, Force of Nature recognizes the challenges in finding poultry or pork options that meet their elevated standards. It seems that the smaller the animal, the more susceptible they are to industrialization and manipulation through selective breeding and environmental changes. Unfortunately, this often leads to cruel treatment in their supply chains.
However, Force of Nature is committed to upholding a minimum bar of ethical and sustainable practices in their sourcing, refusing to compromise on their values. While perfection may not be attainable, they strive to continuously improve and exceed industry standards, particularly in categories like poultry and pork.
In contrast, ruminant proteins such as beef and bison offer a different perspective. These animals consume grass and transform it into nourishment, aligning with regenerative principles. Force of Nature places significant emphasis on sourcing from regenerative farms, recognizing the importance of promoting these practices for the betterment of our ecosystems and communities.
Regenerative farming encompasses various principles, such as no-till agriculture and maximizing land utilization. Different regenerative farmers may have specific guidelines, but the overarching goal is to invest in the resource base and ensure sustainable practices. Unfortunately, the current adoption of regenerative practices remains low, with less than 1% of farms implementing these principles in the United States and globally.
Globally, approximately 40% of agriculture is still reliant on subsistence farming, which emphasizes the need to invest in the resource base rather than irresponsibly extracting from it indefinitely. This stark contrast highlights the importance of promoting regenerative practices and driving change within the industry.
Forming a Better Relationship with Food: Embracing Regenerative Agriculture Principles
When it comes to regenerative agriculture, there are core principles that are widely recognized and accepted. One fundamental principle is the understanding that healthy land is crucial for sustainable food systems. This healthy land is nurtured through diversity, with both plants and animals functioning in harmony.
Over millennia, the cycles and relationships between plants, animals, and the land have instilled fertility into our soil. We have benefited from these natural processes, and now we have a choice: either work with these cycles and emulate them or break these cycles and deplete the soil’s fertility.
It is important to note that regenerative principles apply to both plant and animal agriculture. Industrial models, such as mono-crop farming for corn and soy, where the land is tilled and sprayed with chemicals multiple times, result in the destruction of biodiversity, ecosystems, waterways, and even human health. Similarly, the confinement and overcrowding of animals in unnatural environments with waste lagoons goes against the principles of natural ecosystems.
The focus should not be solely on plant-based or animal-based agriculture but rather on practices that align with the overall well-being of the planet. It is about practicing agriculture in a way that works harmoniously with the natural systems on our globe.
There are six core principles of regenerative agriculture.
- The first principle is to limit chemical and mechanical disturbance. Practices like tilling and excessive spraying can harm the land, poison water sources, and kill essential organisms.
- The second principle is to leave the soil covered or armored. Bare soil is susceptible to extreme temperatures, erosion, and reduced rain infiltration. By leaving organic matter and decaying materials on the soil, we protect it and promote its health.
- The third principle emphasizes the importance of having green growing plants with living roots year-round. When plants are alive and photosynthesizing, they extract carbon from the atmosphere and incorporate it into the soil. Carbon is a vital building block for life and plays a crucial role in soil and overall ecosystem health.
- Diversity is the fourth principle of regenerative agriculture. Embracing complexity and acknowledging the roles of various species in an ecosystem is essential. While we tend to focus on controlling pests, there are numerous beneficial species that can mitigate against those pests and contribute positively to the ecosystem.
- The fifth principle involves integrating animals into the agricultural system. Animals, such as grazing ruminants, can play a vital role in nutrient cycling, soil health, and regenerating landscapes when managed properly.
- The final principle is about recognizing and honoring the interconnectedness of all things. Regenerative agriculture emphasizes the relationships between elements like soil, water, plants, animals, and humans. By understanding and respecting these connections, we can cultivate a healthier and more sustainable food system.
While the adoption of regenerative practices remains low, with less than 1% of farms implementing them globally, it is crucial to drive change and promote these principles. By embracing regenerative agriculture, we can rebuild healthy soil, restore biodiversity, and create a more resilient and sustainable food system. It is through these practices that we can nourish ourselves while also nurturing the planet.
These six principles form the fundamental tenets of regenerative agriculture and are widely regarded as crucial guidelines. Nature inherently follows these principles when left undisturbed. However, the misconception that regenerative agriculture means reverting to a complete absence of human intervention is far from reality. Human ingenuity, technology, and management play essential roles in harmonizing with natural systems and making subtle adjustments to work in tandem with nature.
Embracing Regenerative Agriculture: Empowering Individuals for Change
For the average person, it may feel overwhelming to navigate the complexities of regenerative agriculture while juggling various responsibilities and commitments. However, individuals can still contribute to the movement in meaningful ways. One primary way is by making conscious purchasing decisions. By supporting brands and products that align with regenerative practices, individuals can help drive demand for sustainable and ethical agriculture.
It is understandable that the transition to regenerative agriculture may take time and could involve additional costs. Overcoming these challenges is an inherent part of life’s journey. However, it is crucial to recognize that even small steps can make a difference. Each individual has the power to create change within their sphere of influence, whether it be through purchasing choices, advocating for sustainable practices, or supporting local farmers who embrace regenerative principles.
The hope for a future rooted in regenerative agriculture comes from recognizing the wisdom of nature and our potential to work in harmony with it. By embracing innovation, adapting to unique contexts, and fostering a collective commitment to sustainability, we can build a more resilient and regenerative food system.
Regenerative Agriculture: Healing the Earth and Empowering Consumers
The Earth is a vast expanse, with about 30 billion acres of non-ice-covered land. Of these, approximately 11 billion acres are used for agriculture worldwide, with the United States alone accounting for 2.2 billion acres or roughly 50% of its land managed for food production.
Considering the sheer scale of agricultural practices, it’s important to recognize that both the negative and positive impacts are amplified. From above, when flying over the patchwork of fields, it’s not difficult to grasp the magnitude of this industry. At such a large scale, harmful practices can cause significant damage, but conversely, positive actions have the potential to bring about remarkable healing.
We have witnessed the planet’s ability to heal rapidly, and we know that people can change. These realizations are what drive Force of Nature in their mission. They understand the power of human actions and strive to make a positive impact through their work.
So, what can people do to contribute to this movement toward regenerative agriculture? It is true that for those within the industry, the call to action can be challenging. Educating oneself on the principles of regenerative agriculture, discerning genuine practices from greenwashing, and aligning personal values with their food choices can require significant time and effort.
While individuals should absolutely engage in this process, it is crucial to recognize that not everyone has the capacity to undertake such rigorous research. Many well-intentioned individuals simply lack the time and resources to engage deeply in this pursuit. Force of Nature aims to bridge this gap by becoming a brand that provides accessible options at a national scale across various proteins.
Is regenerative agriculture scalable?
Is regenerative agriculture scalable? Absolutely. Large corporations have shown willingness and intention to embrace regenerative practices. The conversation around meat and animal agriculture has gained significant attention, with media coverage and public discourse shaping the narrative.
In the past, the focus on meat was primarily on price and convenience. However, there has been a food revolution that prioritizes values and health. This movement has permeated other food categories, such as dairy and eggs, and is beginning to influence the meat industry.
Consumers now care not only about price and taste but also about the impact of their food choices. They want products aligned with their values and supporting the causes they believe in. Organizations like Force of Nature are working to catalyze this change by offering sustainably sourced meat products.
Ultimately, no company will produce a product that consumers won’t buy. Consumer demand has the power to shape the market. Historically, consumers were passive participants, purchasing what they were told to buy. However, there is now a growing awareness and desire for accountability. The true cost of cheap meat includes hidden externalities that consumers end up paying for in various ways. These costs include land degradation, health implications, and the toll on workers in the system. It is crucial to bring the true cost of food to the forefront of the conversation and prioritize value and nutrient density.
As consumers, we have the power to drive change. By demanding food that reflects the true cost and supports regenerative agriculture, we can push for a more sustainable and ethical food system. There is hope for scalability and positive transformation if consumers send a clear signal to the market and large incumbents respond to meet those demands.
Alternatives in Promoting Regenerative Agriculture
Imagine having a large area dedicated to growing vegetables, plants, and herbs. How can you effectively control weeds and other unwanted plants without resorting to spraying chemicals? Is there a way to tackle this challenge while embracing regenerative principles?
Firstly, let’s question whether these “menacing” plants and weeds are truly a threat or if they are actually performing valuable ecosystem services. Could they be indicators of soil toxins that they are helping to remove? Just like thistle tea can reveal the presence of certain elements lacking in our bodies, these so-called weeds may have a purpose.
Rather than viewing them as nuisances, it’s important to understand that nature has placed them there for a reason. They are part of a complex biological system, and their presence may serve a specific function. Is there an alternative plant that could fulfill the same role and be harvested as a crop or used in place of nitrogen fertilizer?
For instance, planting legumes or turnips can harness the abundant nitrogen in the atmosphere, which constitutes 78% of the air we breathe. Instead of purchasing nitrogen and spraying it on the land, these plants can naturally fix nitrogen in the soil. There are numerous possibilities for taking action.
In terms of cultivation practices, traditional tilling with discs can disrupt fungal networks and harm soil life. It also leads to carbon release into the atmosphere, as depicted in documentaries like “Kiss the Ground.” However, an alternative approach is using a no-till drill or tractor. This equipment creates a minimal disturbance by gently opening a crease in the ground, dropping seeds, and rolling them shut. The process runs through living matter, leaving little evidence of its passage.
By out-competing undesired plants with desirable ones, it is possible to create a diverse landscape that generates multiple revenue streams. A single planting can yield not only crops but also cost-saving elements such as nitrogen-fixing plants. Additionally, integrating livestock into the system allows for nutrient cycling and soil improvement through grazing and manure deposition.
Now, let’s address the question of whether there are influential players making significant moves in this space. The answer is a combination of grassroots efforts and larger entities. Momentum is building as regenerative agriculture gains popularity, potentially surpassing the growth rate of organic agriculture. Non-profit organizations like Kiss the Ground and the Savory Institute are dedicated to promoting regenerative practices.
Moreover, large corporations have made commitments to regenerative agriculture. However, the challenge lies in ensuring that these commitments are followed through without compromise or greenwashing. It’s crucial to establish a clear definition and maintain transparency to prevent dilution of regenerative principles.
Embracing Organic and Regenerative Agriculture: Understanding the Importance of Carbon and Climate Change
Organic farming and regenerative agriculture have gained popularity in recent years, but it’s important to go beyond the trend and truly understand their significance. The conversation around climate change has become highly politicized and polarizing, which can hinder progress in addressing the issue effectively. Instead of engaging in divisive debates, we should focus on implementing systems like regenerative farming that support real solutions.
Carbon plays a crucial role in our environment and climate. While the climate has naturally changed throughout history, human activities have contributed to significant deviations from natural patterns. Disruptions in land use and the loss of organic matter in soils have impacted climate patterns and precipitation. The deterioration of our ecosystems has led to declining fertility, reduced pollinators, ocean acidification, and the loss of insect species.
It’s important to avoid reductionist thinking that oversimplifies the complexities of these challenges. Climate change is not the sole issue at hand; it is interconnected with multiple existential crises. However, when we think about climate change, we must also consider the impact on life expectancy, ecosystem health, and overall well-being.
Regenerative agriculture offers a potential solution to address these challenges. By challenging conventional practices and embracing regenerative principles, we can restore and improve the health of our soils, which in turn can positively impact climate patterns. Traditional tilling methods release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, while regenerative practices like no-till farming can help retain carbon in the soil.
While discussions around reducing emissions from transportation and livestock are important, we must also recognize that a large percentage of carbon emissions come from tilling the soil for crop production. Corn, for example, is a staple ingredient in many processed foods, contributing to the carbon load in the atmosphere. Shifting towards a regenerative approach can help break this cycle by improving soil health and reducing carbon release.
Back to Basics
The process of photosynthesis, where plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars using sunlight, plays a vital role in capturing carbon. Plants release some of these sugars into the soil, feeding a diverse ecosystem of microorganisms and contributing to the carbon content. However, our current agricultural practices have led to degraded and lifeless soils that are unable to fulfill their potential.
Therefore, the focus should not be on finding complex technologies to manage excess carbon in the atmosphere but on restoring carbon levels in our soils. By supporting regenerative agriculture, we can ensure that our food production systems thrive and nourish not only humans but also the broader ecosystem.
Incorporating Organ Meat: Making it User-Friendly and Affordable
Organ meat often gets a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most nutritionally dense foods available. It is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can benefit our overall health. The misconceptions and intimidation surrounding organ meat can be addressed by understanding its versatility in cooking and its cost-effectiveness.
Overcoming the perception that regenerative or grass-fed meat is expensive is crucial. In reality, it can be more affordable than expected. For example, grass-fed beef chips can cost as little as 55 cents per ounce, while potato chips average around a dollar ten per ounce. By shifting our perspective and recognizing the value of nourishing ourselves with quality ingredients, we can truly appreciate the accessibility of organ meat.
When it comes to incorporating organ meat into recipes, the possibilities are endless. You can make meatballs, hamburgers, or even bolognese sauce using ground organ meat. The goal is to find ways to cook that are quick, easy, and convenient while still providing nourishment and great taste.
The key message is to not be intimidated by organ meat. It is a user-friendly ingredient that can be seamlessly integrated into your favorite recipes. By embracing organ meat as a part of your diet, you can tap into its incredible nutritional benefits and discover a cost-effective way to nourish yourself and your family.
Remember, it’s not about following a specific diet label like paleo, keto, vegan, or vegetarian. It’s about prioritizing real food and supplementing as needed to fill any nutritional gaps. Letting go of preconceived notions and exploring the benefits of organ meat can be a valuable step towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
The Real Deal on Lab Meat
The topic of lab-grown or synthetic meat is indeed a fascinating one. It raises questions about our relationship with nature and the direction we choose to take in food production. While some see lab-grown meat as a solution to ethical concerns and environmental issues associated with traditional animal agriculture, others have reservations about its authenticity, intentions, and potential consequences.
One concern is the concentration of power and control that can arise when food production becomes intellectual property and supply chains are vertically controlled. This can impact not only our food system but also the sovereignty of nations, particularly in developing countries.
Moreover, the claims made by proponents of lab-grown meat may require scrutiny. The complex processes involved, including the use of various ingredients and technologies, raise questions about the health implications and the overall sustainability of such products. The idea of converting real food into different forms through a series of proprietary scientific processes and machinery can seem unnecessary when the original form is already nutritious and readily available.
This highlights the importance of eating real food and cooking it ourselves. By focusing on whole, unprocessed ingredients, we can ensure that we nourish our bodies with the natural nutrients they need. Rather than trying to replace meat with lab-grown alternatives, we can appreciate the value of using high-quality, ethically sourced meat as a base component in our meals.
The inclination to distance ourselves from nature and the concept of mortality seems to play a role in our willingness to explore alternative forms of food production. However, it’s important to remember that we are part of nature and that life and death are integral parts of the natural cycle. By embracing this cycle and acknowledging the harmony and beauty of nature, we can find a deeper understanding of our place within it.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to embrace lab-grown meat or stick to traditional, nature-derived options is a personal one. It’s essential to examine the claims critically, consider the potential consequences, and evaluate what aligns with our values and beliefs. As we navigate the future of food, let’s not lose sight of the importance of real, unadulterated nourishment and our connection to the natural world.
Conscious decision-making regarding food consumption is crucial for our health, the environment, and future generations. Whether it’s embracing the potential of regenerative agriculture, recognizing the nutritional wealth of organ meats, or critically evaluating lab-grown alternatives, every choice matters. It is up to us to prioritize real, unprocessed foods, champion sustainable practices, and maintain our connection with nature. As we make strides in the realm of food production and consumption, let’s ensure that our decisions align not just with our taste buds, but with the health of our planet and our bodies.
- Force of Nature Meats
- Force of Nature Meats YouTube Channel
- Where Hope Grows Podcast
About Robbie Sansom
HOMETOWN: Austin, TX, baby!
TOP 3 MEATS: bison tenderloin, venison heart, beef ribeye steak
FAVORITE WILDLIFE: All the diverse wildlife balanced and harmonious in Lamar Valley Yellowstone
WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?: The clear and massive opportunity to drive profoundly positive global change through consumer support of regenerative agriculture
WHY REGENERATIVE? Because nature got it right. 4.5 billion years later, it’s time we recognize our only path forward is with nature, not against it!