Is it possible to eat meat in a responsible, sustainable way?
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Superior Farms Cattle and Sheep
Credit: Superior Farms

It's one of the more controversial subjects surrounding sustainability. Is it okay to eat meat?

While most Americans (myself included) love a juicy burger from time to time, we are catching on to the unpleasant reality of industrial-strength animal husbandry. From animal welfare issues, to the environmental impact of factory farmed animals, to the associated health concerns for the people who eat the meat, large-scale conventional meat production takes the hits. The grim details are enough to shock the senses — and to help focus the mind on making a few sensible changes.

Turns out, short of foregoing meat eating altogether, there is a seemingly contradictory way to combat climate destruction and animal abuse that involves, well, eating animals. Regenerative farming is the name of the game. It's a traditional method of rearing animals that's gaining, or rather regaining, popularity. The regenerative farming method of agriculture permits animals to express their true natural tendencies.

The Benefits of Regenerative Farming

Unlike conventional methods, designed to raise and fatten animals quickly using the most economical amount of space, regenerative farming takes a holistic approach, farming animals in a way that mimics their natural environments. Down on the regenerative farm, Heritage-breed hogs, sheep, cattle, and chickens feed on grass, mixed grains, or forage freely, depending on the whatever diet the animal would have naturally evolved to eat. And the animals are free to move about. Under this system, "Animals are raised more humanely, with freedom to roam," says Anya Fernald, Co-Founder and CEO of Belcampo.

It's a more natural way to go. Lesa Eidman, Director of Producer Resources and Sustainability at Superior Farms explains, "Our sheep producers graze their livestock across the US on crop lands, pasture, and national forests.  These lambs eat crops while boosting the level of organic matter in the soil, making the land more fertile for plant growth, and lowering carbon emissions by reducing the amount of tractor time on the field. When grazing pasture and national forests the lambs offer soil fertilization, erosion mitigation, and wildfire suppression."

Superior Farm sheep grazing in the field
Credit: Superior Farm

In this way, regenerative farming benefits the earth, too, in a virtuous loop. As animals graze on the land, they put organic matter back into the soil, which nourishes new grass and plant growth, which feeds the animals again, and so on. Round and round it goes. "It's an impactful, symbiotic relationship," notes Eidman.

The bottom line? "Regenerative farming creates foods that are better for the health of the people eating them," says Fernald. "And we believe they taste better, too."

Eidman adds, "I think it's important for people to remember that it is possible to eat meat in a sustainable, responsible way — by selecting the brands that are dedicated to producing meat in a thoughtful, sustainable way."

While there isn't currently a regenerative agriculture certification, Fernald encourages shoppers to look for labels like Certified Humane and Carbon Neutral Certified, as these are indicators of more thoughtful farming practices.

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