Food claims refresher
Do you know where your food comes from? With all the marketing jargon that companies slap on packaging and trends in food changing year after year it can be hard to keep track. What’s best for you, for the animal, for the farmer and for the planet?
Regenerative- Regenerative is about management. Regenerative land stewards manage land and animals to mimic the harmony and diversity seen in healthy functioning ecosystems. Under regenerative management soils improve, carbon is sequestered, eco systems are revitalized and wildlife habit is restored. These healthy systems also yield some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
100% Grass Fed / Pasture Raised- Animals eat nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grasses or grass hay on open pasture from birth to harvest. You’ll want to look for “100% grass fed” or “grass finished” in addition to the Pasture Raised Claim. It is not a requirement to manage land using regenerative principles that provide a positive impact on land, animals or consumers.
Pasture Raised - Animals receive a significant portion of their nutrition from pasture and stored dried forages. They spend the majority of their lives on pasture. They may receive supplemental grains during harsh (extremely dry or snow covered) seasons as well as in the last few months of finishing before slaughter. It is not a requirement to manage land using regenerative principles that provide a positive impact on land, animals or consumers.
Grass fed – This is where things get more confusing for consumers. According to newly watered down regulations, animals can be fed grass at any point in their lives followed by grains or worse spend their lives in feedlots eating grass based feed and yet still carry this deceptive claim. In most cases these animals are started on a grass diet, but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished the last several months of their lives on a fully grain based diet in feedlots to pack on weight. It is not a requirement to manage land using regenerative principles that provide a positive impact on land, animals or consumers.
Organic- Animals must be fed certified organic feed which does not have antibiotics or growth hormones. It must have outdoor access and be raised on certified organic land. Organic systems can be extremely conventional in management techniques with substitutions for certain synthetic inputs. It is not a requirement to manage land using regenerative principles that provide a positive impact on land, animals or consumers.
Free Range- Animal is uncaged and free to walk and has unspecified outdoor access.
Conventional / Natural - CAFO. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Don’t be fooled but the intentionally misleading use of the word “natural”. These are the large centralized systems controlled by mega national corporations that treat lands and animals like materials in an industrial system; void of concern or recognition for the collateral damage they cause. The focus is on increasing yields and thus depressing prices by deferring the true cost of food to the future. We are seeing those hidden costs reveal themselves in the form of plant closures and food stability issues (more on that below) as well as in atmospheric carbon loads, pollinators die off, ocean dead zones, soil loss, nutrition loss in foods as well as heavy concentration of toxins in our food and water. Sadly, despite their objections and against their best interests, many farmers are forced to function as indentured servants feeding into this system that produces 95% of our meat. This is the cost of cheap food. If you don’t know where your meat comes from, this is likely the answer. Enough said.
Weakness in the system.
As the corona virus continues to expose the fragility of the global agribusiness supply chain, the integrated multi-species regenerative operations are thriving. Smaller operations are benefitting from not only the far superior health of their animals who don’t pose a health risk to workers, but also from the nimbleness they process to shift with the changing needs of customers in this unique time. On the flip side, the conglomerate meat operations who have focused on profitability at the expense of human health, animal welfare and the environment have relied on a vulnerable system of calculated efficiency. When some of only a few meat processing facilities shut down, huge CAFO operations can’t stop animals who have been intentionally programmed to grow as fast as possible to stop growing. With a huge bottle neck at the slaughter level and no space left to keep millions of animals confined in environments prone to disease, industrial operations are forced to euthanize the livestock.
The facts are in. Worldwide, regenerative farms and ranches are reporting increased profits as a result of improved system resiliency and less need for costly inputs. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a farmer or rancher who wants to transition from a conventional operation to turn into one that is regenerative overnight. As we outlined above there are many levels between these practices. Generally it takes a financial commitment as well as a lot of patience before an animal is bred, born and raised to maturity exclusively in a fully regenerative system. The time in-between, is a critical transitionary period.
Inversely, there are growing numbers of small and mid-size ranchers that are already practicing regenerative techniques but are unable to make these available to consumers. This is because the large centralized commodity system has led to the closure of many regional processing facilities over the last decade and simultaneously has made it difficult to compete with falsely depressed prices of conventional meat that doesn’t reflect the true cost or value. The sad reality is that the vast majority of the existing regenerative supply of meat finds its way into the massively scaled commodity meat systems that are punitive to farmers and ranchers.
Force of Nature is on a mission to accelerate the growth of a regenerative supply chain. Part of that means educating the consumer on the value of the food raised and land managed under regenerative practices so that we can increase the demand for and availability of those products. As the demand increases and markets expand we can ensure the best meat on the planet for the planet is available to every consumer and in exchange ranchers are properly incentivized for the superior product and outcomes they are producing. Further, even more ranchers will be motivated to transition from conventional to regenerative.
This means we have to assist farmers by facilitating incremental improvements towards regenerative by providing them with an outlet to get their product to market at every step up the ladder. One such way we make that possible is via the food service industry. Chef, sustainable food advocate, and author of, The Third Plate, Dan Barber puts chefs in the driver’s seat for change, saying “Chefs, as arbiters of taste, lead the way in determining what’s fit for their kitchens, which means they do quite a lot to affect the way the world works,”.
The Power of the Consumer.
Barber goes on to say that chefs can mold the pallets of their communities and educate them on the connection between the way food is grown and raised and the flavor of it.
Before the pandemic changed life as we know it, Force of Nature was proud to be featured on the menus of some of the best restaurants in Austin by some of the top chefs in the country. In some cases our partnerships with these restaurants and within the larger food service community provided a channel to sell premium pastured meats and get the word out about what Force of Nature is doing. These pastured items have come from ranches that are transitioning to 100% grass fed and regenerative. These ranches have been heavily vetted by our team to ensure they meet our lofty standards and are truly premium meat items that are also enabling powerful land transitions.
Tragically, when restaurants closed, so did our outlet for these critically important transitional products. Unfortunately, this also puts strain on these ranchers in the midst of transitioning their operations. In the face of this challenge and the financial pressure it has put on us as well, we have chosen not to sit on this product in anticipation of a return to normalcy but instead to embrace our own ability to be nimble and offer this product directly to you for a short period of time.
In the spirit of full transparency we are not only composing this blog but will also update the product detail of any relevant item. While the majority of our products are not affected you will see that our osso bucco, short ribs and primal tenderloins may only bear a pastured claim for a limited time. While pastured, technically grass fed and being managed as part of transitioning regenerative systems; these animals cannot bear a 100% grass fed claim. Accordingly, we are also discounting these products to further facilitate working through this unique inventory.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. There is no revolution without the consumer. Thank you for your support and for being part of the change.