While I have no problem with the proliferation of plant-based protein – it’s not my thing, but knock yourself out if you like it – I do take issue with the idea that a bunch of smushed-up veggies is the future of meat. It has become an increasingly frequent topic in the news. For the planet to have a sustainable future, plant-based meat or cultivated meat has to replace animal protein, or so say the experts.

Thank goodness the meat industry didn’t bite on the nonsensical report that the Biden Administration was going to steal your steaks and hamburgers away. However, while the government doesn’t hold those views, there are some activists who definitely do. They’re missing the other side of the meat industry, though. Local agriculture and regenerative agriculture movements represent important ways for the meat industry to be a part of the sustainability dialogue moving forward. I had never heard of regenerative agriculture a couple of years ago, but now I have come across several companies and ranchers who use it as a part of their core philosophy. It’s an encouraging step forward.

Pardon my bias, but I believe that the beating heart of the agriculture industry is not the massive processing plant or the feed lot. No, it’s the small, independent processor and the small-scale ranchers and farmers who supply them with locally raised product. They are the ones who demonstrate that a sustainable future doesn’t require the elimination of animal agriculture; they are showing that animal ag can be an integral part of sustainability. The two groups are not necessarily at odds with each other. They are working toward the same goal, in their own ways. Environmentalists shouldn’t be calling for an end to agriculture; they should be promoting the local food movement and highlighting those companies that have made sustainable agriculture a part of their operating philosophy. There are more out there than the average consumer might think, and it is a message that they would more easily support. Tell a consumer that they must prepare for a lifetime of smushed peas chemically altered to taste like beef, and you have a problem. Tell them they should get their ground beef from their local meat market or an organic beef processor, you might find a new ally.

Sam Gazdziak