Veganuary… it’s hard to get away from it. From cultured meat to plant-based eggs, for a full month every year (and beyond) our industry groans under the weight of the latest plant-based innovation. Plant-based is the cool kid on the block, and everyone is in on it.
You’ve got to hand it to them: Veganuary is a great marketing campaign. It’s a slick message that resonates. But here’s the problem – what started as a deep-rooted ideology and a genuine whole-food approach has fast become a platform for the processed food industry, pushing intensively farmed, nutrient-void ingredients on a mass scale. The plant-based ‘health halo’ is waning.
But if Veganuary isn’t the answer, what is?
Whilst we’ve been busy fuelling the plant-based revolution, our attention has been diverted away from what really matters: how our food is produced.
Whether animal-based or plant-based, our insatiable quest for energy from food has had a devastating effect on the environment. Be it factory-farmed meat or mass-produced soybeans, food produced on a large scale using intensive farming practices comes at a huge cost – ethically, environmentally and nutritionally. It’s no longer good for the planet, or for the people who eat it.
Some of the most fertile lands of the past are now desert due to poor management of topsoil. Our modern industrial agricultural practices are burning through topsoil 10 times faster than in the past, whilst the processed foods produced as a result – made possible with fossil fuels and synthetic fertilisers – are devoid of nutrients and contribute to long-term chronic health conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
This is where ‘Regenuary’ comes in. A campaign that’s starting to gain traction amongst savvy food producers and consumers, Regenuary asks consumers to source as much of their food as possible from regenerative farming for one month of the year. It’s all about the how.
Regenerative agriculture is arguably the single most exciting frontier for the food industry today. It’s about bringing old and new technologies together to grow our food in a way that regenerates our planet and promotes a diverse, thriving and resilient ecosystem.
This holistic system of farming principles and practices is about improving soil quality and biodiversity to grow more nutritionally-dense food that is good for people and planet, due to a reduced input of fertilisers and other chemicals.
And in regenerative agriculture, animals have a role to play. Not only can animal waste naturally help to bring soil back to life, but livestock can be used to stimulate the growth of grasses to sequester carbon, improve the microbiological diversity and environment, and reverse desertification.
As our population grows and more habitable agricultural land is converted for housing, animals, which can thrive in less inhabitable land, may become an even more critical part of our food system.
Wherever you stand on Veganuary, now is the time to move the conversation on. Rather than focusing on plants vs. animals, let’s think instead about prioritising food that has a positive impact on the planet – food that naturally contains the nutrients we require to thrive.
At its very core, regenerative agriculture is about reconnecting with the planet we live in, being considered about the food we eat and the land it’s grown on. It’s about our health and our planet. Let’s protect them.