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Episode 159
The Doctor's Farmacy

Why Eliminating Meat From Our Diet Isn’t The Solution To Climate Change

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

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Human health is dependent on planetary health. A healthy planet coincides with healthy animals; when we look at the way public health and our climate have changed with the industrialization of agriculture, animals are a key focus. 

We often hear the argument that in order to solve climate change we need to stop eating meat. What these people aren’t realizing is that animal agriculture done right is actually part of the solution. That is a big stipulation because the methods used to raise meat can make or break our climate crisis and our health. 

I’m thrilled to sit down today with Anya Fernald to discuss the ins and outs of regenerative farming and animal practices. 

Anya and I jump into her journey from swapping fancy restaurant kitchens for European dairy farms. She has had such an interesting progression in her passion for food and it landed her as a pioneer for regenerative practices, encouraging a much-needed dialogue between healthcare and agriculture, doctors and farmers. 

While in Europe, Anya discovered that the way animals were raised, the quality of their meat and dairy, and the impacts on the land were vastly different from the conventional model here in the US. There, pastured animals were given the time and space to eat a natural and nutrient-dense diet that served their unique needs. She saw that farmers were using heirloom animals to produce products with incredible taste, despite much lower output compared to conventional operations. Those farmers had greater flexibility, though, and she and I get into why that is so beneficial for the future of farming. 

That same low-and-slow style of animal agriculture also has profound implications for the soil. We discuss why grazing animals are essential for carbon sequestration and reversing climate change, despite what the anti-meat movement might tell you. We should all be anti-feedlot meat but we can eat responsibly raised meat and help our health and the planet in the process. 

We also talk about the history of soil degradation in the US, the soil microbiome and how it responds to agricultural chemicals, and why we need healthy soil to produce healthy food and healthy humans. 

For a limited time, Belcampo is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners a 20% discount for new customers using the code “FARMACY20” at belcampo.com (exclusions do apply).

This episode is brought to you by BiOptimizers, Thrive Market, and BLUBlox.

Right now you can try BiOptimizers Magnesium Breakthrough for 10% off, just go to bioptimizers.com/hyman and use the code HYMAN10 at checkout.

Thrive is offering all Doctor’s Farmacy listeners an amazing deal. You will receive an extra 25% off your first purchase and a free gift when you sign up for Thrive Market. Just head over to thrivemarket.com/Hyman

Right now BLUblox is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners 20% off. Just go to blublox.com/hyman and use code HYMAN20. BLUblox also offers free and fast shipping globally.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. Anya’s childhood love of cooking, her early career in the culinary world, and experiences working in Europe
    (4:09 / 8:19)
  2. Anya’s transition away from vegetarianism
    (8:06 / 12:16)
  3. The value of low and slow animal farming
    ((11:34 / 15:44)
  4. How beef came to be villainized and why it isn’t the enemy
    (16:55 / 21:05)
  5. Animal wellness and its connection to human wellness
    (25:05 / 30:38)
  6. Why animal agriculture is needed to restore our ecosystems
    (30:52 / 36:25)
  7. Is a regenerative burger better or worse for the climate than an Impossible burger?
    (37:11 / 42:44))
  8. Why over a third of meat is thrown away in the United States
    (39:01 / 44:34)
  9. Scaling regenerative agriculture
    (43:36 / 49:09)
  10. The top policy recommendations Anya would make to improve agriculture
    (55:52 / 1:01:25)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Anya Fernald

Anya Fernald is the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo. Belcampo operates 27,000 acres of organic farmland in California and processes its own livestock for sale in its own butcher shops and restaurants. Anya has two decades of leadership and entrepreneurship experience in high-quality, organic and premium foods. Given her expertise on meat and leadership within the meat industry, Anya has been profiled in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and has served as a regular judge on Iron Chef America on The Food Network since 2009. She has been recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Female Founders, one of the 40 under 40 by Food & Wine, and was named a Nifty Fifty by The New York Times.

Show Notes

  1. Follow Belcampo on Facebook
  2. Follow Belcampo on Instagram
  3. Follow Belcampo on Twitter

Transcript

Anya Fernald:
Animal wellness is a crucial part of human wellness. Not just what goes in our mouths, but when we have unwell animal systems, the impact on the environment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s Farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-CY, a place for conversations that matter. Today’s conversation is going to really matter, because it’s about a conversation between farmers and doctors, between what we need to be talking about right now, which is how to regenerate human health and planetary health. That is the conversation today. It’s with an extraordinary woman, Anya Fernald, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Belcampo, which is a regenerative ranch up in Northern California at the base of Mount Shasta.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They have 27,000 acres of organic farmland. They process also the livestock for sale in its own butcher shops and restaurants, which is very unusual. They got the whole supply chain. Belcampo, in Italian, means beautiful field. It is definitely beautiful up there at the base of Mount Shasta. She’s, for two decades, been leading this field of regenerative organic agriculture, focused on meat and leadership within the meat industry. She’s been profiled in New York and New York Times.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
She’s been a judge on Iron Chef and the Food Network since 2009, and recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 female founders and 40 Under 40 by food and wine, and was named the Nifty 50 by the New York Times. She’s one of the pioneers in this field of regenerative agriculture, which is often a male dominated field, agriculture in general. You are breaking all norms in many ways. I’m just so happy to have you on the podcast, so welcome. Welcome, Anya.

Anya Fernald:
Thank you for having me.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay. Let’s get into it. I think we were just chatting a little bit before the podcast about the importance of having dialogue between farmers and doctors, ranchers and healthcare, and between agriculture and healthcare. Why? Because it’s all about food. As we know, food is really driving so much of our global crises today, obviously, chronic disease. It’s making COVID worse. Just a little fact, which I think is staggering to me, to explain why America is leading the pack. We don’t want to be number one in COVID.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We are number one in deaths, number one in cases, number one in the growth and spread. There are many reasons for that. One of the key reasons, I believe, is our poor metabolic health, which has to do with our crappy diet. In China, there’s three deaths per million population. In America, there’s 500 deaths per million population.

Anya Fernald:
Oh my goodness. Wow.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In China, the obesity rate is 2.6%. In America, it’s 42%. It’s related. Your whole work and your effort is really been to link both flavor, deliciousness, nutritional quality with the health of the animals, the health of the planet, and the health of humans. It reminds me of a quote from Sir Albert Howard, who wrote Soil and Health, which I read 40 plus years ago, where he said, “The health of soil, plant, animals,” and he said man, but I would change it to humans, “is one great subject.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you have nailed it with your work at Belcampo and understand those linkages and have created an extraordinary thing. I just like to dive into your background a little bit, because you grew up doing all kinds of interesting things and went to work on a dairy farm in Bavaria. You lived in Greece and parts of Europe. You saw a different way of raising animals, a different way of cooking. Getting in there, you really had a different view of really what we need to be doing in terms of agriculture and, particularly, in terms of how we raise animals.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because now you actually are running one of the largest meat production companies in the whole regenerative agriculture space. I refer people all the times who have eaten in your restaurant in Santa Monica, it’s fantastic. Or is it? Tell us about your story. How did you get started? Because you were a vegetarian. All of a sudden, you’re running a regenerative ranch raising animals.

Anya Fernald:
I think I was driven by curiosity around food that was fundamentally motivated by feeling well. We all have an origin story for our passions in life. For me, being a good cook was a way that I helped my family. Early on, my mother really struggled with anxiety and would get overwhelmed easily. I remember diving in as a young girl and it was a way that I could just … I had this ability to hustle and to think on a lot of different levels and plan out and get a lot of different things done.

Anya Fernald:
The initial genesis for me around cooking was absolutely the role that you play in your family unit. Then, as I as I grew older, I loved the manuality of it. I love the history of it. I pursued a real passion for baking, took a year off during school and during college and was a baker. That’s when I went to Greece. Then as soon as I graduated from college, my biggest instinct was just to go somewhere and do something with food that wasn’t being a chef. I worked for a hot minute in New York at the time, a very fashionable food magazine called Saveur.

Anya Fernald:
It was like champagne and caviar. I was like, this isn’t my world. I’m not into … I still, to this day, really don’t like chef culture. Chef culture was fundamentally, when I think back on it, you have such a great lens on your choices when you look back with 2020. It was also that there was no concept of wellness. I think that, in general, the whole chef culture in America is this egregiously, flaunting wellness and health. If you look at Europe, the chef culture is about much more about that. Now, in France, there’s this famously super obese gourmands and stuff.

Anya Fernald:
It’s not totally true. There’s a bit more of a balance in the culinary world around wellness. There’s less of this drive towards overindulgence. In general, I’m turned off by fancy chef culture, loved farming. I moved to Europe. I got a fellowship at the time. It’s a funny story. I’d read about this fellowship in the Smithsonian magazine. I’m obviously a big nerd. I loved reading Smithsonian in high school. This fellowship was like, they’ll give you 15 grand to go do whatever you want that’s not academic for a year. I told my parents.

Anya Fernald:
I was like, “I’m going to get this fellowship and this is my plan for after college.” They’re like, “Well, knock yourself out.” It’s very competitive. I didn’t have any other plan. Fortunately, I landed that fellowship. Because I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yay!

Anya Fernald:
I moved to Europe with that 15, 18 grand from this fellowship. I went there with a carry-on bag. I came back eight years later.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Eight years later.

Anya Fernald:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Whoa.

Anya Fernald:
During that time, I started out as a cheesemaker. I can visit my parents and stuff back and forth. When I went there, I worked Initially. I use that money to support myself. I had a folding bicycle. I had a huge amount of chutzpah that sometimes I’m like, let me draw that energy forward to myself today. I charged out there. I traveled around by train. I visited over 100 dairies. I worked for longer periods of time in three different dairies. It was an incredibly challenging time. I remember being desperately lonely and stressed out and I was in foreign countries, different languages. This is the time I didn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t have … I mean, that was before cell phones. I was traveling on traveler’s checks. There’s no ATMs, different world.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I remember that. I remember that.

Anya Fernald:
There’s still the Lira.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, you got your Eurail Pass and a map.

Anya Fernald:
Exactly. My folding bicycle and my carry-on bag.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, there were no Eurails, right.

Anya Fernald:
It was a really different … It was this learning on so many levels. It’s actually now when I get young people approached me saying like, “What do I do?” I’m like, “Put yourself in a tough situation and figure it out. Because it’ll guide you well in life.” So much of what I learned about thinking on my feet and just hustling and finding the path forward was in that time, and it was about facing struggle. Now I call that out just on the personal development side. What happened to me, in terms of my learning, was really tied to my health. I grew up in that low fat ’90s.

Anya Fernald:
I graduated from college in ’98. I was a competitive athlete. It was like SnackWell’s and Entenmann’s fat-free brownies, is what they call this with pound before meats and stuff. We’d have spaghetti feeds with no fat spaghetti. I moved from that environment. I’ve been a vegetarian on and off to … I actually had stopped being a vegetarian. Because when I was a competitive rower, it was difficult for my body to get the energy that I needed with a vegan diet. I started eating eggs and some meat. I moved to Europe and dairies, initially.

Anya Fernald:
I started eating not just a little meat, but a lot of meat and a lot of … This is a place where I would get up at 2:00 in the morning, typically, for my dairy jobs and have some espresso or coffee and then milk animals until about 5:00, and then make cheese till about 11:00. Then eat probably like 2000 calories of animal products.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Anya Fernald:
It was a mix of introducing intermittent fasting, introducing all sorts of different patterns, and then a very, very proto keto diet. When I was eating bread, it was locally made in small source. I had this really, really powerful transformation in my mood, my attitude, my overall health, lots of different things. In that time, also, it’s like, when you look back, my desire to stay there was as much about learning as it was about continuing to feel good.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You connected to food and your health in a way that you hadn’t.

Anya Fernald:
Absolutely. I wanted to continue to feel that way. I didn’t want to go back to America. I felt like I had more to learn. I also was like from a health perspective, it was like this is amazing. I got a job then. I got a visa. This is very funny. In 2000, I got a visa from Italy for an independent work permit that was based on me being a cheese expert. I had to go to the consulate in the New York City and explain to them what was like 22-year-old American was a cheese expert that was like … Because you have to show that you have a job. Italy is very protectionist, obviously.

Anya Fernald:
You have to show that you have a skill that nobody in Italy has. I had to go there and do an interview claiming that I was a cheese … I mean, I knew a lot about cheese, do still know a lot about cheese. That was definitely a lucky chance that I got this visa. I was hired then to work in a rural development project in Southern Italy that was basically doing economic redevelopment via helping small scale cheese producers scale up, get exported, build their whole marketing and packaging.

Anya Fernald:
Then from there, I moved to Northern Italy and did a similar set of works but a little bit of a larger scale with a larger group of producers via a foundation funded by the region of Tuscany. I ended up having a very professional progression after that year of cheesemaking, starting from that base knowledge and the how to of actually working in dairies.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You also learned there things that I think were probably subliminal. Because my guess is, the animals that were on those farms were heirloom animals, that they were not consuming industrial food products from commodity farms like in America, that the quality of their milk and the nature of what you made from that was quite different. We’ve lost 50% of our livestock species. The homogenization of animals and breeds for human consumption is just staggering. Through that process, we’ve lost a lot of equality. What did you learn there about the type of animals and the way to raise animals that resulted in better food and better nutrition?

Anya Fernald:
All of that really was the substance of my life in Sicily. I live in Sicily for two years. The group that I work with me …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So jealous.

Anya Fernald:
Well, they made a cheese that was from this breed called the Modicana. You can Google it, that produces less milk than sheep does. You’re talking about a liter and a half or two liters of milk a day, which is infinitesimal. A Friesian will produce 18 to 30 gallons in a commercial operation, depending on the cycle of life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s like growing up to feed a baby.

Anya Fernald:
Okay, so tiny amount.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
A human baby.

Anya Fernald:
You might ask, well, why on earth would anybody keep a commercial dairy cow around with that low, low level of production? The answer is the milk is extremely high in protein. More importantly, these cows can live off of like thorns and bark. They’re extremely robust. In Sicily, it’s over 100 degrees, two or three months of the year, and there’s no irrigation where I was living. It was adaptive to the environment in a way that really made it very, very suitable. It was like an all-terrain vehicle.

Anya Fernald:
It could handle periods of drought and famine effectively and just keep on keeping on. You put a Friesian there, and I think I’ve seen the same thing with the introduction of these Friesian operations into tropical countries where the US will pump in millions upon millions of dollars in aid to establish large scale industrial dairies. The animals will just wither in months due to just they can’t handle the parasitic load in a tropical environment. Actually, the low yield Brahman-cross varieties are actually a much better fit for that.

Anya Fernald:
You see this again and again, where it’s like these large luxury, high production, and high volume animals aren’t suited for all environments, is one key piece of things. Then, additionally, there’s a different quality to the actual product they produce. Everything slow growing. In my experience, in the animal world tends to be, I won’t say … Don’t have the science to say it’s better, but it’s of a different caliber. You see this in density, the way that’s been documented as protein density in a free range, slower growing animals.

Anya Fernald:
There’s a really solid data point that’s pretty well documented, which is that animals that grow slower have higher protein and have general higher micronutrient density. In all of these low and slow, I think, of them animals, it’s the Tyson chicken that’s coming to full weight of close to three pounds in two-and-a-half weeks for being a chick to a chicken on our farm taking 8 to 10 weeks to achieve that same market weight.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. Wow.

Anya Fernald:
That tradeoff in speed is what I saw again and again, is that these products made from local breeds that produce at shamefully inefficient levels, producing great taste quality and then offering farmers much more resilience and flexibility on a small scale.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You basically took all these insights from being in Sicily and Italy and all these different farms and practices you saw and the different animals, and something inspired you to create this 27,000 acre regenerative ranch in Northern California. How did you get to there from being this young woman with a folding bike and a backpack?

Anya Fernald:
I know. Also, keep in mind that in the eight years I worked in Italy, the final chunk of it was doing a … I run a microfinance fund for small scale food businesses. I basically assisted. This is around the time of the European Union. I assisted in small scale food businesses coming up to speed, helping them get in line with European Union regulations, et cetera. All of that was really crucial to my understanding of business development, market compliance, all the different aspects of food safety, et cetera. Now in the time when I returned to the US, I just …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You learned the art of farming and the business of farming.

Anya Fernald:
Yeah. My inclination is more into the business side of it. I’m intrigued by the potential to not just do something beautiful, but do something powerful. It’s one thing I’ve seen frequently in the regenerative and small scale ag world a desire to create a small, perfect microcosm that’s available to very few. I think that’s why the elitism claims have stopped and been a perennial issue in the space, because they are. They’re beautiful, gilded small microcosms that actually are not very accessible, even though the majority of the products that we’re talking about fundamentally are the food of the poor.

Anya Fernald:
These are the foods that we develop in subsistence economies to eat, buy, because we couldn’t afford the mainstream products. It’s an interesting lens to look at things now. I think that it’s all been now viewed as this really, really high end. For me, the idea of creating something small and beautiful and perfect is less interesting than creating something larger and transformative with some mix and tumbles along the way.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I get the scale idea. We’re going to get back to that, because it’s a very important question. This is great. It’s wonderful. You can have an heirloom cow. Okay, it’ll feed six tech billionaires in Silicon Valley, and who cares. We’re going to get to why it’s important and how to scale it. Before we do, I want to address the elephant in the room, which is the conversation about meat itself. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Is it bad for the planet? Is it good for the planet? Is it bad for the animals? Is it okay to eat animals?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because the conversation that’s really emerging in many, many circles, is that we should all become vegan in order to save our health and save the planet. You put up a very different conversation about this. How did we become to understand that beef is the enemy? Why is it not?

Anya Fernald:
Absolutely. There’s a series of cultural conversations that happened after the industrialization of beef production that shifted the optic and the lens we viewed beef. You know the narrative well. I’ll repeat the broad brushstrokes of the story. After the Second World War, we had a major consolidation of agriculture. Many of the ammunition factories were converted to fertilizer factories, which made … We had basically a vast infrastructure fertilizer factories that were ready to go. We started to make fertilizer much, much cheaper.

Anya Fernald:
We had a bigger industrialization of agriculture. At the same time, we had a different approach towards food security, is what we call it today. The government, after the Second World War and around that time, was very concerned about America’s autonomy, understandably, and invested in systems that ensure that we had enough corn, wheat, rice, soy, those key crops, and a few others, cotton, sorghum, tobacco, that we had those produced in volume, sufficient to feed the American public in the US. The confluence of those two things is an overabundance of food crops starting in the ’50s, that we began to, understandably, redivert to beef feed. We developed the world source …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We started producing too much food, and so we had to feed it to something else, right?

Anya Fernald:
The thing is, too, markets a bunch of rational things that we did. We are like, okay, we don’t want to have another Victory gardens and terrifying end of the world scenario. Understandable, right? We have all these huge factories that we need to do something else with … Understandable. These are all rational economic decisions.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It was good intentions with bad consequences.

Anya Fernald:
And longer term consequences. These were short-term pivots and responses to things. I think sometimes, and I do agree with some of the broader conspiracy at times around big ag, but the way that it’s been built up, I think, was a normal reaction to a bunch of social and economic forces. What we ended up with though, is by the ’50s, we were realizing we could get fatter beef faster, feeding it human food. Then about 10 years later, Diet for a Small Planet was one of the first books that hit around this.

Anya Fernald:
Then about 10 years later, people started to say, but wait a second, this is devastating for the environment. Because we’re basically producing resource intensive crops that are maladaptive for beef diet and are also bad for the planet being produced at the scale for this usage. Effectively, we created a very unsustainable beef supply system. The way that it happened is that we pivoted how we produce beef from a natural regenerative traditional system to the modern system.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Industrial factory farm, yeah.

Anya Fernald:
Then we started to understand, I’d say, the response to that was for many people, well, we’re going to be vegan. Now, why wasn’t the response were going to …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like Food Inc. was like, oh my God, look what’s happening with these factory farms. Then, of course, a literature came out that meat is bad for you. It’s got saturated fat. We shouldn’t be eating it. It causes heart disease, right?

Anya Fernald:
Yes, yes. I think a lot of the conversation around beef and how bad it is. A lot of it I agree with, directionally, and that confinement beef is really bad. I’m not …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Just to clarify, what happen is, is this conflating of traditional, let’s say, heirloom generatively raised animals and the bare impact on health and the planet, versus feedlot beef and their impact on health and the planet and the impact on the animals in terms of the horrific conditions they’re raised in. Yet the conversation about meat doesn’t often distinguish those two things. Even the health effects is fascinating. We’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but there’s studies that need to be done more on this. We’re working on how to do those.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In Australia, they looked at wild kangaroo meat versus feedlot beef gram per gram of protein, when consumed, have profoundly different effects on human biology. The feedlot beef raised all the inflammatory markers. The kangaroo meat lowered inflammation in the body.

Anya Fernald:
Wow.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Same amount of protein, both meat, but profoundly different effects on human health, not to mention the effects on planetary health.

Anya Fernald:
It’s a dangerous through line to draw at times. You look at the confinement system in feedlot beef, it is an inflammatory system. The way that these animals are fattened up is by giving them a fundamentally inflammatory maladaptive diet, which triggers a lot of different reactions in their bodies. It also is putting them in confinement, which creates competition for mates and foods and resources, unsanitary conditions, highly stressful. It’s cortisol. There are two factors maladaptive diet that’s inflammatory and then a highly inflammatory stressful context that they’re living in.

Anya Fernald:
Those two together, now you’re the doctor here. I’m going to leave it to you to understand like, is eating meat from an animal that, effectively, is highly inflammatory for us? That would make sense to me. I’m always troubled when I see people in the culinary community, in particular, posting pictures of Kobe and Wagyu and this highly fatty meat. I just think you wouldn’t put a picture up on Instagram of a 350-pound four-year-old and be like, look at how cool this is. You say like, this is an abomination. Help us help this child.

Anya Fernald:
When you’re putting that kind of picture up of those steaks because, effectively, what you’re doing is saying like, here’s a deeply diseased and troubled organism and we celebrate and fetishize it, as opposed to looking at it like what it is …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, very good point.

Anya Fernald:
… which is inflamed tissue.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, it’s interesting. The diet we’re feeding the animals that’s inflammatory is a high carb diet, corn. That’s the same diet that Americans are eating, is a high refined carbohydrate diet that makes us inflamed and sick and more likely to get COVID and many chronic diseases. It’s actually an interesting parallel that you draw. Russ Conser says, “It’s not the cow, it’s the how.”
Speaker 3:
Hi, everyone. Hope you’re enjoying the episode. Before we continue, we have a quick message from Dr. Mark Hyman about his new company, Farmacy, and their first product, the 10 Day Reset.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Hey, it’s Dr. Hyman. Do you have FLC? What’s FLC? It’s when you feel like crap. It’s a problem that so many people suffer from, and often have no idea that it’s not normal or that you can fix it. You know the feeling. It’s when you’re super sluggish, your digestion is off, you can’t think clearly, or you have brain fog, or you just feel rundown. Can you relate? I know most people can. The real question is, what the heck do we do about it? Well, I hate to break the news. There’s no magic bullet. FLC isn’t caused by one single thing. There’s not one single solution.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
However, there is a systems based approach, a way to tackle the multiple root factors that contribute to FLC. I call that system the 10 Day Reset. The 10 Day Reset combines food, key lifestyle habits, and targeted supplements to address FLC straight on. It’s a protocol that I’ve used with thousands of my community members to help them get their health back on track. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a system that works. If you want to learn more and get your health back on track, click on the button below or visit getfarmacy.com, that’s getfarmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y.com.
Speaker 3:
Now back to this week’s episode.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How does the how that you’re doing at Belcampo changed the quality of the meat? How’s it different for us from a health point of view? How does it impact climate and the environment in a different way than traditional feedlot? How ethically is it different? There’s a lot of questions in there, because it’s ethical issues, environmental issues, and health issues. They all get conflated. It’s important to break them out because they’re quite different.

Anya Fernald:
Around the ethical issue, I do need to state, for me, the elephant in the room, is that an animal dies to make meat. That’s a fundamental choice that we have to be comfortable with as humans. What I’ve tried to do is to answer all the questions apart from that one, which I can’t have an answer for it. What I’ve tried to build in our systems is the same as I think the thinking of many people in the regenerative movement, which is to create an evolutionary system for the animals to grow up in.

Anya Fernald:
Now, the question around the high carb, so I need to talk about that, there is a little bit of a difference in terms of our inflammatory response and the beef inflammatory response. I agree that we’re both inflamed. Keep in mind that beef are ruminants. Their evolution is for eating large volumes of extremely low calorie, high fiber, nutrient poor food, which is forage. They’re amazing. They’re like the compost pile of the animal …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They’re upcyclers of nutrients that we couldn’t eat.

Anya Fernald:
We are the predators. We won out in the evolutionary battle. We got to eat everything. We’re a monogastric. Other animals that we eat that are monogastric are pigs and chickens, Monogastric means we have one stomach and we are able to … Because of that, we need and we seek out nutrient dense foods. If you or I are to eat only grass, we would be in the hospital in a week. It would be extremely difficult for us to extract enough nutrition from something that high fiber. Cows, on the other hand, are suffering when they eat nutrient dense food.

Anya Fernald:
Because they have these five stomachs, which become gassy and inflamed when they’re pounded with a lot of grain. The question too is like, well, all natural grasses would have seed pods on them. I can say from being in the farming industry that it’s one-half of 1% when you have a large field of grass and how much these animals are not scraping the seeds off, like bears picked blackberries. They’re eating volumes of grass. There’s a little bit of seed at different phases of the lifecycle in there. That’s a very different system.

Anya Fernald:
An evolutionary system means that we’re trying to create key aspects of how an animal exists in the wild, and in the case of … There’s no wild cow, but they’re bison and there’s oxen. The [inaudible 00:27:46] oxen from Russia are the original cows. We do that is to focus on diet, breeding, and mothering. Those are the key life points for animal wellness. The diet is what we talk about the most.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I just want to stop you for a minute there. You just said something that I don’t think anybody talks about, animal wellness, animal wellness. That’s a very new idea that brings into the conversation a different way of thinking about how do you raise animals for their health and for our health and how they’re connected. It’s very important. Thank you for pointing that out.

Anya Fernald:
Well, I think animal wellness is a crucial part of human wellness. Not just what goes in our mouths, but when we have unwell animal systems, the impact on the environment, and that’s not even just the big picture your grandchildren polar bear stuff. That’s, literally, if you live two miles from a confinement agriculture farm, you have something like double the chance of having a miscarriage or low birth weight baby. It’s also quite near term here and now and wellness issues.

Anya Fernald:
In our systems, and I want to clarify a point out, that there’s dozens of farms across the US, maybe in the hundreds. I don’t really know. Like that I know of, there’s dozens that practice this. We’re not unique in this. There’s a lot of options now to buy regenerative products. Our system, the word regenerative is like looking to the long term. Thinking many generations out in terms of the health of the soil, and that means that we’re trying to actively sequester carbon. There’s not a regenerative practice specifically around beef, but beef are part of a regenerative system. In environments like where I am right now, in the Belcampo farm, it’s a brittle grassland environment. That’s where we farm. That’s where most regenerative farmers …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You couldn’t grow crops or vegetables there, essentially, right?

Anya Fernald:
There’s not enough water, correct. This is an area that, 150 years ago, was heavily grazed by elk and deer. There are massive herds of them around here. This is an environment that evolved in concert, in concert with ruminants, with these big, heavy, hoofed foot animals with lots of stomachs that could take all of these massive volume of grasses, a little bit of seeds, basically mulch them and poop them out, for lack of a better word, in a … The seeds are actually passed entire through the digestive tract of these animals.

Anya Fernald:
Then they’re deposited on the prairie, on the ground, packed in its own great fertilizer. While the animals is dropping these mature seed pods packed in fertilizer, they’re also lightly aerating the soil by walking across it with their heavy bodies and sharp pointed hooves, creating a light tilling effect as well, that allows that the next time the rains fall, there’s indentations where the rain pools creating greater saturation of the water. That whole process, the beef, I’d say, are in support of a regenerative prairie management system. That’s the way to be part of the system.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, that’s a very important point you make. Because what people don’t understand is that, if we wanted to say, let’s just eliminate animals from the planet, eliminate agricultural animals because they’re the enemy, and there are many people who are saying this, we should just get rid of animal agriculture. What you’re saying is that it doesn’t actually make sense, because 40% of our global agricultural lands are not suitable for growing crops. They’re suitable for grazing animals.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If we do it right, and there are many ways to do it wrong, through over grazing, which destroy the environment, lead to desertification, which has happened all over the world. Doing it right, like you’re doing it, you’re actually restoring the ecosystem. You’re increasing biodiversity. You’re building soil carbon. You’re drawing down carbon out of the environment. You’re conserving water in the soil. You’re actually creating healthier animals, which then creates healthier humans. You’re creating this virtuous cycle, which require animals, is what you’re saying.

Anya Fernald:
Yes. The challenge here is that there’s a really widespread assumption that animal agriculture in and of itself is the problem, not the current manifestation of animal agriculture. We’ve got plenty of examples in history and some good research being done right now that shows that when you remove, as you mentioned, ruminants from a traditional prairie system, that system collapses. The great example in American history is the Dust Bowl. There’s many, many stories about this and documentation of it.

Anya Fernald:
I’ll give the short version, which is that we took, we remove the bison from our prairies through massive kill offs. We then fenced in those prairies. For the first couple years of farming, it remains today unbeaten levels of wheat production. That land was so fertile, so fertile. Within two years it cratered, it cratered. Then the Dust Bowl happened. What happened is the topsoil, which have been built up slowly through generations of animals walking, dropping manure and seeds, et cetera, aerating, et cetera, all of that evaporated and turned into … It’s literally called the Dust Bowl. You wouldn’t see the sun for days, because of the amount of dust that have come up through erosion. The soil …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, it went all the way to Washington, D.C., which is why the government actually started to create the soil conservation program.

Anya Fernald:
Carbon in soil, the reason we want carbon in the soil is that it supports microbial growth in the soil. Microbial growth then supports the growth of microrhizomes and root systems that’s a virtuous cycle, then it further sequesters carbon. Carbon is like think about it in in your own body too. It’s like having a healthy microbiome, is the first step to making sure you don’t get the flu. Then getting the vaccine is on the outer levels of what you want to do. . There’s a lot of similarities to how we look at the human body and whole body wellness and how we approach agriculture.

Anya Fernald:
We have a very consistent systemic approach in America to those two problems or opportunities. Here at Belcampo, we’ve been surveying the soil since 2013. We are carbon positive. We’ve actually been actively sequestering. We’ve got that monitored by a third party. Just to your question of, is beef bad? I’d say, hey, there’s many, many people that are surveying this and measuring this right now. I think we’re probably a decade away from the tide really turning on this issue. They buy farms like our showing concerted long term shifts. In our farm, in seven years, we turned the tide. We changed the direction point.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s a very important point. We actually can sequester or store carbon that’s in the atmosphere into the soil and dry down carbon in a way that can help stop or even reverse climate change. It’s a conversation that’s starting to happen in many circles, certainly happening in Europe. It’s in certain conversations that are happening in the government. It’s not certainly far enough, in my opinion. What people don’t realize is that we have the biggest carbon capture technology ever discovered. It’s available everywhere on the planet. It’s free. It’s something that is available everywhere and is called photosynthesis.

Anya Fernald:
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting to me too. Because people think like carbon sequestration is important because we want carbon out of the environment. This way, we put it into the ground where it’s stored. Then that’s just the beginning. Because what happens when the carbons in the ground is that there’s better microbial action, there’s better microrhizome growth, and then you limit erosion. It’s a totally virtuous cycle. Then you go bore microrhizome.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Given the erosion.

Anya Fernald:
Then you’re able to sequester even more carbon. It’s not just about putting things in the bank, it’s actually that there’s interest on that in the bank. There’s actually a really healthy cycle that carbon creates. We do a very good job with industrial ag at killing the microbiome of the soil. You have something that’s really painful about, for me, particularly around glyphosate and roundup, a very, very common chemical, is that it kills the microbiome of the soil. As you know, it’s a broad …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It has 70% of crops. It’s hundreds of millions of pounds. It’s the most abundant …

Anya Fernald:
It’s everywhere. It kills inches of inches of topsoil. When you see these flash floods in the Midwest on farming communities and whole towns are underwater and mudslides and stuff like that, it’s like that’s because we’ve completely killed the microbiome of the soil through the use of the most commonly used agricultural chemical. It doesn’t just kill what’s above, it kills what’s below. That’s another double whammy in terms of carbon sequestration, because then you’re killing the ability of those plants to sequester carbon.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. As a doctor, it’s also important to me. Because when you put carbon in the soil, you build the microbiome of the soil. The microbiome of the soil is what allows the nutrients to be extracted from the soil to go into the plant that will enter us and make us healthier. When you look at industrial farming, whether it’s growing vegetables or animals, one, the nutrient density is lower in factory farm animals. The nutrient density is far lower in industrial produced crops.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’ve got 50% less nutrients and minerals in some crops over the last 50 years just because of the destruction the soil. It’s such an incredibly virtuous cycle. It’s hard to argue with regenerative agriculture. Yet, many people still do. We talked about the fake meats out there that are being promoted like Impossible Burger. I went into Starbucks the other day, and I bought a coffee. I saw in the cabinet the Impossible Burger cheese sandwich. I was like, what? Then I was like, people don’t realize. One, It’s a highly industrial food product that’s made from 47 Novoproteins.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s got more glyphosate than you require to kill your own microbiome, because it’s GMO glyphosate sprayed soybeans. Three, it is better than feedlot beef for the climate environment in terms of greenhouse gases, but regeneratively raised beef actually draws down carbon while the Impossible Burger will add three-and-a-half kilos of carbon. You literally have to eat one regeneratively raised burger from Belcampo farm to offset an Impossible Burger’s carbon emissions.

Anya Fernald:
That would be a good marketing flyer, I’ll give you a BOGO.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s actually validated science through Quantis, which is a life cycle analysis company from Australia that looked at both approaches. It was shocking to me. I thought, wow, that’s pretty impressive. I think the whole it’s not the cow, it’s the how message is really important to get out there.

Anya Fernald:
It’s a message that’s so radical in terms of the modern thinking about protein, that animal protein, that it’s difficult what you say. People are like, but can I really believe this? This is so different. Mark, in the past, what? Five years, we’ve seen a radical shift in people’s understanding of the role of fat in their diets. There’s still plenty of holdouts with margarine in their fridge out there, but the tide is turning. I’m optimistic that good data and good advocacy can make that shift. I know and I do what I do with integrity, because it’s the right choice for the planet.

Anya Fernald:
I also know though, that the levels of meat consumption, the way we consume meat are not sustainable. I’m not saying this is just a carte blanche to continue what we’re doing, but change the input. We throw away almost, I hear somewhere, between 35% and 45% of the meat that’s produced in America. It goes into the trash. I think there’s a lot of ways that …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Why is that?

Anya Fernald:
Well, when you have a really cheap product, you’re not very conscious. Trust me, that the numbers on caviar usage in American restaurants are not nearly as egregious. People don’t throw away stuff that’s expensive. Meat is very, very cheap. We feature it heavily in buffets. We feature it in … It’s a giveaway effectively. We make it. We do abundant portions that people don’t finish. Food waste in meat is egregious. We raise animals in torture. They die in torture. It’s bad for the environment, the way that’s produced, and then it ends up in the trash can.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Anya Fernald:
Tell me that. We’re feeding them human grade food the whole way. There’s just elements of that that are so broken and wrong. I think that there’s the big piece we need to talk about, is that raising beef the way that I raised it is three to five times more expensive than the conventional method. One of the great privileges of being American is cheap meat. We’ve evolved the way feeding it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Let’s talk about it. Is it really cheap though? Is it really cheap? Because when you look at who’s paying the cost of a factory farm animal, who’s paying the cost of the destruction of the soil, the pollution of our waterways through the production of food that goes into rivers, lakes, and streams, and kills our fish supplies, like 212,000 metric tons in the Gulf of Mexico, the loss of pollinators, which have dropped 75%, half of all birds have gone from America, because of our agricultural industrial system.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The incredible damage is happening to the climate as a result of destroying the soil and the way we grow food. Who’s paying those costs? I don’t think we’re actually paying the real cost of the food. What about the antibiotic resistance and the 700,000 deaths a year from antibiotic resistant organisms, much of which is coming from farms that cost trillions of dollars. Who’s paying that cost? It’s not the price you pay at the checkout counter, it’s what I call socializing the cost. Meaning we, as citizens, as countries, pay the cost while the corporations who produce those meats actually privatized the profits.

Anya Fernald:
Yeah. If you look at the way that the locations of the factory farms are increasingly in disenfranchise areas with high density people of color, California passed the proposition which basically made the worst actors just leave the state and go to places that were less regulated and where the citizenship was less active in disenfranchise. It’s a pretty disproportionate impact on the poor as well, in terms of the actual immediate bad effects of … I mean, if you look at, for example, chicken farming. It’s primarily new Southeast Asian immigrants and Latino immigrants that are in that industry. It’s disproportionately health impacts in terms of who’s actually working there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, the farm workers and the food workers, but also the people who live nearby, as you mentioned, the amount of pollution is driving asthma and chronic illnesses that are really well documented in terms of their impact [crosstalk 00:42:19] …

Anya Fernald:
Well, here in California, back to the COVID thing, when you started to see the death rates in the Central Valley spiking, notice that how the death rates per thousand were so much higher near the agricultural communities, because the general metabolic health indicators are so much worse there. There’s three times the incidence of asthma in Fresno than there is in Oakland. An equally polluted California city, but it’s the ag that’s driving that asthma level.

Anya Fernald:
This is the point though, the question for me is I often get the dollars and cents rationale of like, I’m a working single mom and I can’t afford this. I understand that. Directionally, there is going to need to be, I think, to implement regenerative agriculture, a broader understanding of those bigger picture externalized costs. I don’t think in the US, we have a great track record of understanding the nuanced bigger picture impact of good short term economic decisions for individuals. I don’t have a ton of confidence in people grappling with that bigger picture, negativity.

Anya Fernald:
It seems like what the decision is, is like, well, let’s just pivot to this highly processed soy based or grain based industrial ag, off put and just buy into that if I am going to be activated around this. The pathway to getting consumers to stay with meat, but demand better meat is going to be a more laborious build, I think. That’s what I’ve been leaning into. It’s like trying to find the demographic that’s ready to convert or is open to the message and has maybe not massive resources, but enough to have a little bit of optionality.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. There are ways of buying in bulk. There are ways of buying at scale. You can buy half a cow, you can buy with your neighbors. I just bought half a lamb from a local farmer here. I put in my freezer to last me a long time and wasn’t that expensive compared … It’s all local. How do we scale this? Because, as you’re talking, it’s really clear to me, and I think it’s clear to many people in high levels of policy around the world, that regenerative agriculture is a key solution to so many of our problems, water problems, climate problems, food problems.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The UN said that if we took two million of the five million hectares of degraded land around the world and convert it to a regenerative agriculture, we could stop climate change for 20 years and would cost $300 billion, which is less than we spend on diabetes in this country, the government spends, and is basically 60 days’ worth of military spending around the world and compared to the four trillion whatever dollars we spent on COVID relief. It’s just a drop in the bucket. Yet, nobody is really talking about how do we build and scale this.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because a lot of the conversation, well, this is great, it’s elitist. If you have money, you can buy it. It’s not really scalable, but there’s a lot of challenges to that theory. Guys like Allen Williams are talking about if we took all the degraded land, if we took all the land that’s being used to grow corn and soy for animal feed, or some of it, if we took the conservation lands that the government has, we could actually scale this up, and that would bring the cost down.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It would improve our entire ecosystems, increase biodiversity, conserve water, help deal with the droughts and the floods and the fires, and the weather instability and climate. It’s an interesting concept. How real do you think it is, that we could actually move that scale? Because it’s only 1% now of our agricultural system. How do we get it to 10%, 20%, 50%?

Anya Fernald:
I’ll tell you from an organizational capacity management. We built this operation here. I started the business. My co-founder, in 2012, with 6000 acres, and we scaled it to close to 30, through the acquisition of three other large branches, and also acquired a land for and built a slaughterhouse. In that time, what I’ve learned is that regenerative agriculture is much more reliant on human know how and intelligent engagement with data in a series of decision making points.

Anya Fernald:
Unlike in a feedlot, you can have anybody show up with the bag of feed or a computer and put the feed in the bucket. You buy the feed from one of three consolidated companies. You buy that based on price and proximity. That’s your decision tree is like, where’s the bucket go? In regenerative ag, I’m looking at our pastures right now and I can tell a story about every single one of these. Did we decide to irrigate ever? If so, what’s the system that we use that’s most efficient? When we’re planting, we do no till planting. What and how are we planting?

Anya Fernald:
Where to optimize sunlight and natural water flow? How are we handling hedgerows and biodiversity? How are we handling biodiversity management? Then how are we rotating the animals over the years? How are we handling fencing or any type of containment? These, I could just rattle off, but there’s hundreds of these decisions. They’re made by highly skilled ranchers. Whereas agriculture on the whole has been deskilled and put into … They’re like an autocratic class, and then there’s endless workers who don’t even need to speak the language of their bosses.

Anya Fernald:
Literally, don’t need to even speak the language. There’s so little need for any real knowledge transfer. There’s no skill gained through the work. My jobs here at our firm are careers. People are learning really sophisticated information about how land is managed, how we increase fertility using a lot of subtle EQ type skills around animal management. It’s really hard. You understand every day why people don’t do this anymore. Scaling this, the challenge here, Mark, is … This is our scale. Belcampo now, we are, by the grace of God, growing.

Anya Fernald:
Our restaurants have actually grown year on year in COVID, I believe due to the wellness message and the wellness experience that many of our customers have of just real significant physical and wellness goals being met through our product. I’ll just hypothesize here, but we are actually growing in our restaurants, which is very, very unusual. My category is down 70% year on year due to closures. Were up 15% at this point.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Anya Fernald:
We closed of two of our restaurants that are in enclosed malls, but the remaining five, those statistics are true on. Then the rest of it, with our ecommerce growing and our other channels are growing, we’ve been in a really fortunate position. As we look at scale, we’re scaling through partner firms and partners’ capital. If I think about the real challenges, I’ve had a significant single investor for eight years. We’re now raising capital for the company in the upcoming months to fund, really, our ecommerce expansion, our direct to consumer mail business.

Anya Fernald:
The privilege of having an individual committed investor and the long term approach to returns is enormously important. Then also, as I scale, I’ve never been an advocate of like, let’s just buy 250,000 acres. A, where the money come from? That’s this patient capital, but also from a management and logistical perspective, becomes untenable. These are systems that are better built for medium and small scale operations. I consider Belcampo medium scale. We have a herd of 3000 beef currently. We’ll be expanding next year.

Anya Fernald:
About 25% of our production will be coming from partner firms that we then certify to meet, not just certified humane and organic, which are our base criteria for Belcampo, but then also our own regenerative practices. The scale, and I bring up my story, is relevant to the degree that it reflects an experience of scaling and regenerative agriculture and failing more than I have succeeded in many, many ways, and saying, okay, I don’t really want to do this four times as big. I’d rather be a coach on the regenerative practices as certifier in a marketing arm.

Anya Fernald:
That maybe in 10 years, our own, where I’m sitting, this farm right here is maybe 10% or 15% of our production and the remainder of its coming from many partners. I want to call out something too, Mark, that I think … I don’t know if consumers are aware of the amount of frustration in the farming community about industrial ag as well. You’re probably aware of this.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Traditional farmers.

Anya Fernald:
Exactly. The challenges are … I mean, if you were to start a farming business right now in industrial systems, basically, you sign up to … You’re buying all your baby animals from somewhere, you have to fatten them in a certain system in the livestock industry. You’re buying them at market set prices. You’re buying what you feed them at market set prices. Then you sell them at market set prices, the commodity prices. All three of those commodities, none of that’s differentiated. Whatever you do doesn’t matter. You just seem to come in under those commodity prices. It’s terrible. It’s not entrepreneurship. There’s no ability to differentiate and …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s bad for the farmers.

Anya Fernald:
If those commodities don’t line up great, you’re just out and you’re just in the red that year. You have nowhere to go. You have nowhere to go. We saw this in COVID, where those farmers are up a creek all of a sudden and killing, aborting baby pigs, and throwing away eggs and stuff. You are squeezed in conventional farming. Then also, what we’re seeing in the case of the crop industry, with glyphosate, actually, they are mandated to buy the chemical from the farm, they’re mandated to buy the seeds from that same company, Monsanto.

Anya Fernald:
Then they can only sell out of the commodity. Again, those three things on a pricing basis don’t align one year. Who’s paying the price? The farmers are. They’re taking [inaudible 00:51:54]. That’s something that the USDA does a ton of, is just basically bridge financing for farmers that are sustaining losses on behalf of agribusiness. The small farmers have become this giant bank that’s funding misalignment in the commodity pricing structure.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right. Just to break that down for people, the farmers are not the bad guys. They’re caught in a squeeze between the banks who give them money to run their farms, which then goes to the seed chemical companies, and they’re stuck in this vicious cycle and have to buy crop insurance for the downside on their farms. They can’t get loans unless they have crop insurance. They’re stuck in this vicious cycle, which is a trap. They often make very little or no money. What you’re saying is that the farmers are getting sick of this. They’re looking for new ways.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve had Allen Williams and Gabe Brown on the podcast. They really talked about how, as they go around the country, more and more traditional farmers are sick and tired of the way things are happening and are looking for new way and are coming out in droves to really learn about regenerative agriculture and understand how to implement these. They’re profitable in the first year, which is interesting. Because when you thin, the people who are making all the money in the system are not the farmers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s the seed and the chemical companies and the banks, and not the farmers. This turns all that upside down. I imagine, on your farm, you had a private investor, maybe for the land. Basically, you’re not having to buy chemicals. You’re not having to buy seeds. You’re not having to buy antibiotics. You’re not having to buy hormones. You’re not having to sell your products in a commodity fixed price system that lowers the price, so you can actually have a profit.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It seems like this is a model that’s going to regenerate rural communities, that’s going to reinvigorate farmers, that’s going to actually increase profits for them, and have all these side benefits just as our traditional farming system has all these negative benefits. It’s the opposite. Better food, better for the animals, better for humans, better for farmers, better for climate, better for biodiversity, better for water resources and the soil. It’s all a win, win, win, win, win.

Anya Fernald:
The key thing we’ve done is to build a direct relationship with the consumer. That’s another thing, where although with small farms, there are farmers markets. Those often require a lot of driving, getting up early on the weekend. If it’s raining, you don’t sell anything. The problem is there’s really no consolidated market. Where if you have a differentiated product, you can sell it into. There’s not really the channel to support any scale on regenerative. I’ll be clear too, that our farm has cost a significant investment.

Anya Fernald:
Although we don’t spend on antibiotics and glyphosate and things, we’ve had to scale up the herd. We’ve bought thousands upon thousands of animals and breeding stock. We have seven species that we raise here commercially, all the infrastructure on that. It’s a significant lift to get an operation like this up and running. I think they the longer term challenge for regenerative as well, is that there’s very little left in the way of rural small scale infrastructure to support.

Anya Fernald:
If you do get a farm up and running, it’s difficult to find slaughtering further processing, so making things like beef jerky on a small scale or just getting your animals killed. That’s what we have done. We built our slaughterhouse down the road, about 20 minutes from the farm, that’s certified humane and certified by CCOF as organic. Having those pieces has made all the difference for us to be able to build actually a brand. The scale issue for regenerative, it’s a different model than how the agriculture scaled currently.

Anya Fernald:
That’s a question that I muse on a little bit, which is that, truly, regenerative I see it as a patchwork of medium scale operations that scale up in concert. There’s not really an easy acquisition pathway for a large, well-resourced agribusiness to come in and acquire a bunch of these. I do think there is an opportunity around investment too to look at longer term. This is a field that’s more invest in large scale.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, there are billions of dollars. There are billions of dollars flowing into regenerative ag from private investments and funds. Anya, we have a new administration. You’re called by President Biden to lead an initiative to transform agriculture in this country, maybe you’re the Secretary of Agriculture, maybe you’re just advising him. What are your top three recommendations or five, whatever you want to share, that would really move the needle and make us move forward faster to solve these big problems of human health, animal health, planetary health, and really move things forward?

Anya Fernald:
Flattening the subsidy system. Flattening it. Making it …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You mean killing it? What do you mean by flattening?

Anya Fernald:
Making it equally distributed among all types of farmers. Instead of having a huge subsidy go to eight crops, have a small subsidy go to every crop. If we’re going to subsidize farming, let’s subsidize all farming in the US. If we’re going to subsidize any type of farming, I don’t think it’s fair to say we’re going to massively eliminate subsidies to large scale farms or corn or wheat or those different things. We need to have a flattened subsidy, a subsidy system that isn’t differentially favoring crops that are bad for human health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Incentives for regenerative agriculture?

Anya Fernald:
Well, in other countries, they’re simply tax breaks for farmers as a category. That’s something to consider. Instead of saying, we’re going to give an operational subsidy to producers of this one specific crop, we could say, we’re just going to give an operational subsidy in the form of tax relief to all farmers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s a big idea.

Anya Fernald:
That’s a big idea. That, to me, would say, we’re going to incentivize food production and interests of food security, which I agree is a national priority. We’re not going to specify that it has to be these specific eight crops that also happened to be pretty unhealthy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. If I were king for a day and had autocratic power, I would essentially put in one rule, which is that any food produced this country must have as its requirement that it’s high quality. We can define high quality, nutrient density, promotes health, promotes a healthy environment. It’s all the things we would say in terms of food and food production, but quality has to be king. I think, if we do that, it would make a huge difference. I don’t see that happening. For example, we give school lunches, we have quality standards, we can improve those, obviously.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For SNAP, there’s no quality standards for procurement for food in purchasing in the government. There’s no standards for what we grow. There’s no standards that it has to produce quality food. To produce corn and soy in the way we’re doing it that gets put into industrial food products that make us sick and fat and cost the government huge amounts of money in Medicare, Medicaid. It falls apart when you focus on quality. That’s really what Belcampo is about. It’s about producing quality for the earth for humans, for the animals in all levels of the system.

Anya Fernald:
Yeah, I agree with that. It’s difficult with the word quality, because it’s qualitative. I think, broadly, if I was to look at what could lead to better quality, right now, we actively subsidize the worst quality foods, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right.

Anya Fernald:
We don’t have any incentivization or any structure or rigor around assessing that point that you brought up earlier, which is the bigger picture impact of our choices in agriculture. Those are the two areas that I think are the most interesting to explore from a policy perspective, is like, how do we change subsidies to equally, not disincentivize the other stuff, but maybe equally incentivize all the stuff? Then …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I would just incentivize the bad stuff. I would actually have a cost not be so externalized.

Anya Fernald:
Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Looking at ways to bake in those costs is a very interesting idea. The system where right now in America, it’s cheaper, significantly cheaper to chemically grow corn, harvest it mechanically, store it usually in a modified environment, truck it, than to a cow and then feed it to it, than it is to just let a cow out on a pasture and let it eat till it’s full. That’s nuts.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It is. It is.

Anya Fernald:
That’s the major sticky point for me, is like, let’s make that. It should be easier to just let a cow onto grass, granted that’s organic grass and it’s all the grove and species, whatever. Even if it’s just regular old grass, it’s still cheaper to chemically grow corn, mechanically harvest it, truck it, store it, truck it again, store it again, and feed it to a cow than it is to just let the cow out into your backyard.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s crazy.

Anya Fernald:
That really doesn’t make sense. That’s the fundamental like this economy that we’ve got. It’s doing us a disservice on so many different levels. That’s the fundamental issue, is that cost basis. It’s interesting when I hear all this vigorous resentment of the beef industry. I’m like, you realize this is just all in the service of agribusiness. It’s a pretty fundamentally pro-agribusiness angle to just embrace veganism. Because that’s actually, I think, you’re just supporting the same aggregating corn base and something. They see right in the wall too.

Anya Fernald:
They’re like, people are eating less granola bars. They’re eating less highly processed cereals. There’s this vast infrastructure built to make all that garbage. Now they’re just getting ready to pivot to something that feels better. It’s vegan protein. That’s the thing. It’s like the next highly processed plant-based garbage that they’re going to convince you to eat. I think it’s fundamentally an agribusiness back message to effectively kill one of its own.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you’re right.

Anya Fernald:
They’re killing one of their own.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you’re right. That’s a very important insight.

Anya Fernald:
To push us too, because what are we going to do with that? We stopped eating as much Cheerios. We’ve stopped feeling good about giving Twizzlers’ snacks to our kids. There’s been some shifts recently. How are they going to get us back from this whole foods migration? That’s a lot of people are thinking about that right now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For …

Anya Fernald:
To me, the composition of those products is too similar to the garbage.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It is.

Anya Fernald:
It’s too similar to the garbage to make me think that it’s not connected.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s a bait and switch. If people want to get more involved in learning about regenerative agriculture or eating those products, where should they start?

Anya Fernald:
Regenerative is an unregulated word, just like grass-fed and finishes. Starting with a farm that at least claims to be regenerative, doing some research into it is a great place to start. Now, if you’re looking for regenerative from a local farm, it’s probably going to be at your farmers market. It’s unlikely that any of your grocery stores are going to be stocking it, unless it’s a really small alternative shop. People that ship nationally, Belcampo, of course, is available nationwide. There’s a few other regenerative operations, like White Oak Pastures is one of them.

Anya Fernald:
Porter Road down in the southeast is an amazing job of sourcing. You can look for those words. Another word you want to see or you could see in place of regenerative is climate positive. If you’re not saying the word regenerative climate positive, the three things that would suggest that that’s the operation is grass-fed and finished is one claim, organic certified, and then some type of certified humane or Animal Welfare Association approved. Those three together are pretty much a proxy for the regenerative approach.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s great. If people are interested, they can go to belcampo.com. They can learn about what you’re doing. Can they order Belcampo meat there?

Anya Fernald:
They can do everything there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing.

Anya Fernald:
They can find out restaurants in California, and then we ship nationwide now, free delivery over 100 bucks. It’s very accessible. It’s usually two-day shipping. We’re filling out of the East Coast as well. It’s speedy and delivered frozen.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s fantastic.

Anya Fernald:
That’s something that’s really blossomed for us during COVID. It’s been amazing for the business. It’s just a huge, huge way for us to grow, to control margin, to manage the customer experience. It’s a great way. Supporting Belcampo that way or any farm with direct purchasing is huge. Many people don’t realize that when you go into a grocery store and buy, there’s a couple layers of people picking a percentage. It ends up usually being about 60% of what’s on top of their farmer costs. If you’re buying direct, you’re basically giving 60% more to the supplier, which is really crucial for operations like ours.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Incredible. Just cutting out the middleman is a great idea. That’s what you’re talking about in regenerative agriculture, cutting out the middleman, which is all the farming and the corn production, soy production has to go into feeding animals. You’re just like, lend me grass. For people who want to learn more about regenerative agriculture, there’s also an incredible report by the Rodale Institute. It’s called regenerative agriculture in the soil carbon solution. You can just Google it in Rodale Institute.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s really a wonderful detailed understanding of how to actually use regenerative agriculture to solve so many of our problems in terms of human and planetary health and actually in ways that are good for animals. Anya, you are incredible inspiration to me and so many people, I think, by what you’re doing. You’ve really gone and created something unique, remarkable. I encourage everybody to check out Belcampo. Just go to the website. It’s beautiful. You’ll learn all about it. You can learn more about regenerative agriculture.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Watch Kiss the Ground, which I, hopefully, you’ve seen. I’m in it, but I’m just a small bit part. It’s an incredible movie that talks about regenerative agriculture. I encourage everybody to watch that. Anya, thanks so much for being on the Doctor’s Farmacy podcast and helping us learn more about the nuances of regenerative agriculture and grass-fed meat and why it’s so important to our health and planetary health.

Anya Fernald:
Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, of course. If you love this podcast, please share with your friends and family, share it on social media. Leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcast. We’ll see you next time on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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