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Episode 745
The Doctor's Farmacy

Why Animals Are An Essential Part Of A Healthy Food System

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.

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We often hear the argument that in order to solve climate change we need to stop eating meat, but the truth is that animal agriculture done right is actually part of the solution. 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. The methods used to raise meat can make or break our climate crisis and our health. 

On today’s episode, I’m excited to talk to Robby Sansom and Taylor Collins about the nuances of regeneratively raised meat and how it can reverse climate change, support better health for those who eat it, and provide natural and caring conditions for the animals it involves. 

Our current U.S. food system is built to subsidize and support corn and soy farming. It makes it easier for big farms to get bigger while smaller farms have a difficult time making ends meet. Robby explains the major issues in our food system and what he learned studying regenerative agriculture at ranches all over the world. He also shares how it differs from conventional and even organic farming practices. 

As Robby, Taylor, and I get into our conversation, we recognize how far removed we’ve become from food production–and death in general–and how that relates to consuming meat. I had the unique opportunity to visit ROAM Ranch and be a part of a Bison harvest. It was one of the most compelling and moving experiences of my life. Taylor explains the importance of honoring the animal’s life, and discusses how the animal dies is just as important as how it lives. He also talks about the difference in the quality of nutrition between regeneratively grown bison and conventionally raised cattle. 

Much of the U.S. is made up of farmland, but that land has been systematically depleted, stripped of complex root systems and critical topsoil, causing nutrient depletion in the crops and animals. We talk about why animal integration is a fundamental element of regenerative agriculture, and how different animals play different roles in regenerative grazing. 

We also get into the true cost of food. I’m not talking about the dollars and cents you are paying at the market; I’m talking about the benefit or burden that food has on your health, our environment, our climate, farmworkers, the economy, and so much more. One example is our loss of biodiversity. Conventional farming practices like agricultural chemical inputs, over-tilling, nitrogen fertilizers, monoculture, deforestation, and more, contribute to a massive loss of biological diversity on the planet. This has major consequences for our food security, as we have less fertile soil, a decline in pollinators essential for food production, and other direct food losses like fish from polluted waterways.

Regenerative agriculture is the answer to better food, a cleaner environment, and healthier people. I hope you’ll tune in to learn more.

This episode is brought to you by Rupa Health, BiOptimizers, Levels, and Cozy Earth.

Rupa Health is a place where Functional Medicine practitioners can access more than 3,000 specialty lab tests from over 35 labs like DUTCH, Vibrant America, Genova, and Great Plains. You can check out a free, live demo with a Q&A or create an account at RupaHealth.com.

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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:

  1. Big-picture issues with our food system
    (7:48 )
  2. Regenerative agriculture as a solution to these issues
    (11:23)
  3. How the food industry takes advantage of consumers
    (13:21)
  4. The true cost of corn
    (19:41)
  5. My visit to Roam Ranch
    (23:55 )
  6. The nutritional value of regenerative bison vs feedlot beef
    (42:32)
  7. Learnings from a regenerative rancher
    (45:15)
  8. Six principles of soil health
    (54:41)
  9. Food production around the world
    (1:01:51)
  10. Is regenerative agriculture scalable on a global level?
    (1:05:47 )

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.

 
Robby Sansom

Robby Sansom is Co-Founder & CEO at Force of Nature, a regeneratively sourced meat company based in Austin, TX. Previously, as CFO/COO at EPIC, Robby spent much of the last decade studying regenerative agriculture at ranches all over the world. Through this education, Force of Nature was co-founded with the intention to accelerate the creation of a global regenerative supply network. Force of Nature works in partnership with land stewards, ranchers, and farmers committed to creating a positive return on the planet. Robby is also a land steward at ROAM Ranch, where he owns regeneratively managed bison.

 
Taylor Collins

Taylor Collins is the Chief Bison Wrangler and a Co-founder of Force of Nature. In 2017, Taylor and his family purchased ROAM Ranch, a 900-acre multi-species regenerative ecosystem. Within 5 years of management, the ranch has seen dramatic improvements in soil carbon, water infiltration, plant diversity, and soil health. With a focus on connecting consumers to the land on which we depend, ROAM Ranch and Force of Nature hope to amplify regenerative practices within the next generation of land stewards as well as those currently managing land conventionally. 

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Introduction: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Taylor Collins: There’s never been a point in human history where we have been further separated from the source of our food, from the source of life. And I think that is with intention and that’s with design.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s [inaudible 00:00:21] pharmacy that have a place for conversations that matter. Today’s conversation matters because it’s about our food, our food system, and how we actually need to understand the role of animals in our food system to create a better ecosystem in agriculture and also better health for ourselves.
Now, this may be controversial for some of you, but we’re going to get into details and go through it with two extraordinary men who I’ve met recently in Austin, Texas. I was there visiting their ranch, Roam Ranch, which we’ll talk about in detail. It was one of the most moving experience of my life. I learned so much about what it’s like to actually run a regenerative farm, a ranch, what happens on the land, what actually the synergisms around the ecosystem that get created there occur, and how that benefits the rancher, the animals, and the land.
Now, Robby is a co-founder and CEO of Force of Nature, which is a regeneratively sourced meat company based in Austin, Texas, which is really amazing. I encourage you to check it out, forceofnature.com. Robby’s roots run deep in the natural food community. He was the CFO and CO at Epic, which maybe some of you know. He spent much the last decade setting regenerative agriculture and ranches all over the world. Through his education, Force of Nature was co-founded with the intention to accelerate the creation of a global regenerative supply network for good food and meat.
Force of Nature works in partnership with land stewards, ranchers, and farmers committed to creating a positive return on the planet, which is a great concept as opposed to positive return on your wallet, but it does that too. With Force of Nature, consumers now have the ability to invest in environmental regeneration by consuming meat that’s good for the planet.
It’s one of the things as a doctor that I find most difficult, as I say, “Eat regenerative food.” Well, where can you find it? How do you get it? Where do you buy it? Well, now, there’s a place. He was born in Austin, Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s from University of Texas. wheW he is not building businesses aimed at saving the planet, Robby can be found on the trail, the ocean, the mountain, the field, always making time to appreciate nature and explore surroundings. He’s also a land steward at Rome Ranch, where he owns a regeneratively managed bison. Amazing.
Taylor is the Chief Bison Wrangler and he’s a co-founder of Force of Nature. In 2017, Taylor and his family purchased Roam Ranch, a 900 acre multi-species regenerative ecosystem that I visited, which soil building practices are integrated into every aspect of land management. How do we create more soil? How do we build a healthy ecosystem in order to create healthy food? In nature’s image, the promotion of biodiversity is really the key feature of the ranch. For this reason, Taylor raises bisons, ducks, chickens, turkeys, wild turkeys come on land, I saw them, geese, pigs, and intention creates a habitat for both native and migratory species to co-create on his landscape.
Within five years, just five years of management in a regenerative way, the ranch has seen amazing improvements in soil, carbon, water infiltration, plant diversity, soil health, as a living demonstration to the potential of regenerative land management. The ranch hosts thousands of guests from all over the country every year with a focus on connecting consumers to land on which we depend Roam Ranch and Force of Nature hope to amplify regenerative practices within the next generation of land stewards, as well as those currently managing land conventionally. When not wrangling bison, Taylor enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, trail, running, cycling, and planting trees.
Welcome, Robbie and Taylor.

Robby Sansom: Wow, thanks a lot, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Sure, that’s good. That was a lot. But here’s the thing. I went out to Austin, Texas and I visited you both, and I went out twice to the ranch because I was so compelled. It was about an hour and a half drive each way, so it was a big schlep to get there, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my whole life. The first time I went out there, you gave me a tour of the whole ecosystem and it was amazing to go out there and see your ranch next to all the other ranches that bordered your ranch. Your ranch was thriving in lush and rich in biodiversity and bald eagles and rivers coming back and creeks coming back and wild animals all over the place and turkeys mixing with the wild turkeys. It was quite a scene.
And right next door, the ranchers were struggling. Their land was denuded, was bare. They often had to sell off their cattle, because when I went, it was a time of drought and they had to sell off their cattle because they’re going to die because they can’t eat food. Farming and ranching in the conventional way. It was like this bold star comparison of a way that restores ecosystems compared to a way that destroys ecosystems to produce our food. The reality is, in America and around the world globally, increasingly we have a destructive agricultural system that destroys the environment, destroys biodiversity, destroys the soil. It’s a big cause of climate change and produces food that is bad for us and is harmful to the animals. Whereas, your ranch’s the exact opposite.
I want to get into basically the way this all could be. We had many conversations when we were there about how scalable this is and what’s going wrong with our food system. Let’s start with talking about our current food system and why it’s so screwed up and why our food system basically has been designed to create larger and larger ranches and farms, mostly supporting corn and soy farming. In eliminating most of the small family farms in America, it can be really hard for farmers to actually succeed unless they’re really big.
Robby, can you speak to the big issues in our food system and what you learned studying regenerative agriculture and ranches all over the world? Because you’re not the only ones doing this. There’s places all over the world that are being in demonstration projects for a different way of thinking and growing food.

Robby Sansom: Yeah. No, Mark, that’s a beautiful lead. I mean, this is obviously an extensive topic, so bear with me as I kind of go into peeling back some of the issues that we have in food. But the first thing that comes to mind for me is just the scale of agriculture. I think, as consumers, sometimes we hear big figures and it’s hard to appreciate just how significant the impact of agriculture is on all of those things that you listed and many others seemingly existential global crises that we face.
Just for some quick back of the napkin math, I mean, the earth is about 30 billion acres of land and about 11 billion acres of that has agriculture on it. To make that more tangible, the US is about 2 billion acres. Just look at your map, that’s the US, 2 billion acres, and almost half of that has some form of agriculture practice on it. When we talk about the scale and we talk about these practices and tilling land and spraying chemicals and all of the things that we’re going to be discussing, just keep that in mind.
The experience you have when you fly over the US in a plane and you see a checkerboard beneath you is representative of just how much of this is going on, and I want for consumers to appreciate that. That really has stood out to me, to understand that some of these negative externalities and these things we’re going to discuss exist. But it also makes me hopeful, because to know how much impact potential that we have with subtle changes to do positive things, that same scale applies when you start to apply it towards solutions.
I’d say the second thing that I learned that stood out to me is this illusion of choice. It’s even partly how we’re conditioned to think in many cases, but everything gets benchmarked against the status quo, our existing agriculture system. Well, if we do that, it doesn’t accomplish this thing our current system does. Well, the reality is the status quo is not an option either. Change is inevitable. It is a must. I mean, even from 2012 to 2016, more than half of the agriculture counties in the United States were declared designated disaster areas. That is the status at present… actually, historically of our food production systems. You look at all of the data, 30% of our most fertile lands are desertified across the globe or desertifying.
I just think we need to just make sure start the conversation that we recognize that change is necessary. Change is inevitable, whether we invite that change or whether it forces itself upon us. We’re heading towards a point where we won’t be able to make food healthy, abundant, or cost-effective, let alone make food at all if we don’t accept that reality and adopt some change.
Again, going back to your question. What have I learned and how does some of that supply beyond that scale and that need for change? I see regenerative as a solution. There’s a lot of reasons I know we’ll get into, but ultimately it invests and builds resiliency into our food system, in opposition to the status quo, which simply extracts from the system. It creates positive and it celebrates externalities, instead of deferring and ignoring negative existential externalities. It mirrors and emulates the architecture of nature and biology instead of combating it with chemical and industrial warfare. It’s a system that promotes life instead of one that aggressively seeks to eliminate it. I like to say it ultimately replaces a vicious system with a virtuous one.
I know that you have some questions coming up, too. There’s a few other things I’d like to touch on this point. I think you mentioned the farm bill. I know it’s near and dear to both of us. Only a few single digit percentage points of that bill effectively are dedicated to conserving and securing our food production systems. If we acknowledge that beautiful Wendell Berry quote that you have in the front of your book that we all talk about, we have a food system that ignores our health and health system that ignores our food.
The health of our land and our food system will be a reflection of our own health. That’s just a natural law that we can’t refute. Yet when it comes to these regulations and systems that we put forth to promote synergy towards our food production, that resiliency, that conservation, that securing of our food production system is an afterthought. I think more that comes to mind, in learning as we’ve gone through all of this, is just understanding how the consumer is taken advantage of and manipulated.
An average consumer sees cheap shelf prices and is told that that’s all that matters. Everything else is hidden, so you just see red meat and cellophane and the only thing that’s worth discussing and acknowledging is the price at the shelf. The truth is, to obtain the outcome where we are today, there had to be a significant compromise in value along the way. Even still, while we’re losing that value, the truth is the food itself that has a cheap shelf price is among the most expensive. It probably certainly is the most expensive and most on it [inaudible 00:11:51].

Dr. Mark Hyman: Can you explain that? I think that’s a really important point, because we think when we buy food in the grocery store, the price we’re paying is the true cost of food. But the fact is that, actually, for every dollar we spend on food, there’s another $2 in cost to society in terms of healthcare costs, loss of biodiversity, social justice issues, environmental damage. I mean, just the list goes on and on and I think that’s an underestimate. The Rockefeller Foundation put out a report called the True Cost of Food and where they basically said, “We have over a trillion dollar food system, but it cost us 3 trillion in damage.” And they left out a lot of things that also should be included that actually weren’t even included in that calculus. It’s actually probably maybe even three, four, five, six times the cost to society, to humans, to the planet that we pay at the checkout counter.

Robby Sansom: Oh, yeah, absolutely. No, I’m glad you asked because I love diving in on this one. I think it sort of helps round out the initial question as well. I think you pointed to some of the deferred costs and I’ll get into those, but let’s just talk about on an absolute basis, the direct cost. If you look at Ruffles potato chips, they’re twice as expensive per ounce.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I try not to look at them. No, I try not to look at them.

Robby Sansom: Yeah. Taylor and I did a whole podcast on our own podcast called Where Hope Grows and I think ruffles were a $1.19 an ounce, and our regenerative beef was 55 cents an ounce. It was more than more twice as expensive. We’re told this meat is expensive, but we don’t bat an [inaudible 00:13:30].

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, probably price per nutrient, it actually was far cheaper for the meat.

Robby Sansom: Oh, we did a joke. Yeah, absolutely. One’s making you sick, one’s making you healthy. We even went and bought a meal at a fast food restaurant. We did it at a gas station and it was less expensive to make a meal for our families at home. Taylor jokingly bought a bottle of Pepto-Bismol with his convenience store meal because he knew that [inaudible 00:14:04].

Dr. Mark Hyman: You definitely need that. You need some Pepcid or something.

Robby Sansom: I don’t even want to glorify calling that food. I’m starting to call those things, those hyper processed offering food, like substances, because that’s effectively what they are. But again, we don’t bat an eye at the price people pay for $7 coffee or expensive bottle of wine or $9 bottle of water and bourbons and vinegar [inaudible 00:14:24].

Dr. Mark Hyman: A $7 coffee. Yeah, it’s crazy, right?

Robby Sansom: But again, at the cash register [inaudible 00:14:30], these things are way more expensive and yet we appreciate those as cheap, but we think of meat as expensive. Again, on an absolute basis, I’d say that this food is actually less expensive than people realize and it’s valuable, but we’re conditioned to think differently.
I think the other thing, too, that we’re told because it’s cheap is that we can waste it. Something like 40% of all food is wasted. It’s 60 million tons, $200 billion. I mean, it’s just the things that we do because we’ve been conditioned to believe certain things are remarkable. When you come at it with a different perspective, it really changes how you may act. But then of course there’s what you talked about, too, some of the other things you don’t see in the shelf price beyond the absolute basis.
The reality is, for cheap food, consumers pay three times. They pay for it in the form of taxes that go to these subsidy systems. They pay for it at the register. And of course they pay for those deferred costs. You mentioned the deferred costs. I mean, the US has to pay the government of Brazil over $150 million a year because we’ve been flooding international markets with crops sold at below the cost of production.
I have some pretty crazy stats on the big four meat companies. I’ll save those for later, but ultimately… I was looking at the healthcare costs. You referenced those. I think you state $3.7 trillion as the cost to treat chronic disease in the US. You do the math on that, that’s $557 per household per week. If you want to begin to appreciate the hidden cost or the true cost [inaudible 00:16:05], add $557 per week to your grocery bill and you can start to understand the expectation that we’re putting on ourselves.
And then there’s the social issues. There’s farmers suicide. There’s all of these compromises that we’re making to the system to build into the security. We’ve seen the US government begin to feign acknowledging this by putting billions of dollars of incentives into opening up more processing plants and doing some of these things. But at the end of the day, in this world travel and in learning about regenerative, I’ve come to this realization that our food system and our food culture have been captured and it’s killing us. Meanwhile, regenerative is thriving all over the world. 40% of farms on the planet are still subsistence farms. We’re told one thing that promotes the current system is the only option, but the truth in reality that I hope we’ll discover on this podcast today tells an entirely different story.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, that’s incredible. Robby, thanks for that summary. I’ll just reiterate and then I want to jump to Taylor, because I think I want to dig into actually the reality of what it is to actually run and live on a regenerative ranch and farm. Because we talked about it in the abstract a lot, but this is… It’s really got me into the weeds and the dirt and the soil literally when I was there.
But just in terms of getting back to the cost thing, let’s just take the cost of corn, which is such a foundational product in our food system. It’s the foundational substance through which most processed food is made. Most of the sugar we eat is from corn and the cost is just astounding. We have the damage to the soil that comes from the nitrogen fertilizers, the pesticides, the herbicides, the damage to humans that comes to that, the loss of biodiversity. We have the nitrogen runoff from the soil into the rivers and lakes and streams that goes into the ocean that kills hundreds of thousands of metric tons of fish every year and seafood that’s for human consumption. That creates dead zones all over the world that affect 400 million people. What is the cost of that? I don’t even know.
You could quantify that. It’s literally trillions of dollars. We then make that food into processed food, which then we subsidize for the government. Basically, 75% of food stamps or SNAP is processed food, 10% is soda, and most of that is coming from corn and other industrial products like soy. Then we pay for Medicare and Medicaid on the backend. We’re paying three or four times for that corn as taxpayers and we think we’re in this financial crisis now. We’re talking about the debt ceiling, government’s going to shut down. I mean, a lot of this has to do with our food system and the chronic consequences that come from the food system.
Taylor, I sort of want to flip now to talk about what you’ve done, which is pretty remarkable. You basically created a company called Epic, which was a meat bar company from grass-fed meat. I used a lot of the products. I didn’t even know you, but I thought they were great. It was bison bars and venison bars and grass-fed beef bars. It was salmon jerky and all kinds of stuff. It was really great. You sold that and you could have bought a house in south of France and had a great time and checked out the rest of your life, but you decided to take that and turn it into a 900-acre regenerative ranch in Texas.
I visited the ranch with and met both of you there, and you took me around and gave a tour, a whole bunch of people. One of the things that we also did was a bison harvest, which sounds kind of gruesome. I want you to talk about that a little bit. It was one of the most emotional, compelling, moving experiences of my life. I’ll share a little bit about why, but take us on the journey from the food system that we just heard about, which is this incredibly destructive food system that’s killing the earth, that’s hurting the animals, that’s hurting humans, that’s making us sick, and talk about a regenerative system that you created. What is that and what does it look like and what do you do every day? What happened to the land that was basically conventional ranch land that you took and re-imagined into this beautiful, productive, alive place?

Taylor Collins: Yeah. It is so wonderful having you out at the ranch coming in to visit us. Thanks for making that journey. We got to have you two days in a row, which was pretty awesome. I was so stoked to see you at day two. You came back for more. What we’re trying to do out here at Roam Ranch… We’re on 900 acres, like you said, in Fredericksburg, Texas, which is in the hill country. We’re in a little bit of a river valley. But what is unique about Roam Ranch… It’s the fact is that this is just a microcosm for all land and how it’s been managed globally. When you look at the history, you have this part of Texas. It was one of the last parts of the United States to be settled because we had some amazing indigenous tribes, specifically the Comanche Indians, literally rolling back westward expansion. This land was teaming with some of the finest horseback warriors in Calvary warriors ever to roam the plains.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You don’t want to mess with the Comanche, right?

Taylor Collins: No way. This part of Texas was some of the last part to be settled by Europeans. Believe it or not, they gave out land grants. People came, flooded this area primarily from Germany to escape oppression and lack of freedom and lack of opportunity. They risked life and limb to come to farm and to celebrate in agriculture and co-create with mother nature’s wisdom and her gifts. What happened a little over a hundred years ago, we started seeing an industrialization of that agricultural system.
This land, it had been everything that you had me mentioned previously, corn. It had been a monoculture of peanuts, of wheat, of milo, of soy. One cash crop after another was the only reason it was transitioning to another cash crop because the ecosystem was collapsing. The natural resources had been extracted to the brink at which it could no longer produce that one food or plagues of insects came into the systems which could not be combative.
When we bought the ranch six years ago, we called it perfectly destroyed. I mean, it doesn’t get worse than this, where over 450 acres of it looked like the moon. The old man who sold it to us was literally spraying it with herbicides until the ink on the contract dried. It was his last day on the ranch. He was tilling and spraying. It really didn’t get much worse as far as having all of mother nature’s functioning cycle shattered. The nutrient cycle was depleted, the energy cycle wasn’t working, the water cycle was in dysfunction, et cetera. My wife and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to find the most neglected, abused, extracted, industrial piece of land we could find and then restore it and share that journey into regenerative agriculture with a greater community.
Really, what we learned in this process is thankfully mother nature’s capacity for forgiveness and for healing is far greater than our own species’ capacity for destruction and ignorance. The beautiful thing is what we’ve observed in six years has exceeded any of our wildest dreams as far as how quickly mother nature can restore and rebuild and heal. Really, what we’re doing is we’re looking into mother nature for guidance and for wisdom and the architecture that’s been put in place for billions of years. We’re recognizing that as a species. We’re some of the last people to be invited to the party. We’re just showing up to the dance. Whereas, bison have been president for two and a half million years, and so [inaudible 00:24:11].

Dr. Mark Hyman: I never thought there were bison in Texas [inaudible 00:24:15] among the Great Plains out west, but actually there were all over the place. Right?

Taylor Collins: Bison, keystone species. I mean, they are national mammal now for good reason. They roamed all the way from Northern Canada into Central Mexico. All in between North America and our most fertile food systems were now… We extract through industrial agricultural practices. That fertility was gifted to us by millennia of bison co-creating with landscapes. We’re taking a step back and we’re allowing the wisdom of the bison to show us what to do. So, we raise bison, we raise turkeys, we do pigs, we have ducks, chickens, we have honeybees. But more than anything, what we really want to celebrate is the animals that are allowing us to be here, which is, like you mentioned, the bald eagles, the coyotes, the bobcats, the great horned owls, the mountain lions. Things that… Robby and I grew up in central Texas and we had never seen a bald eagle in our lives. We’re 40 years old, so to have a [inaudible 00:25:15]

Dr. Mark Hyman: We saw one when I was there. We saw it.

Taylor Collins: Yeah. We just never knew that was a possibility. It had been lost in written history, but the beautiful thing is that once that ecosystem starts and you begin creating that virtuous cycle where it’s functioning at a higher level, more life wants to participate, more life volunteers. Like you mentioned, we have wild turkeys now electing to be on our ranch, breeding our hens, and those are our [inaudible 00:25:42]. That’s the option. Those wild turkeys could be anywhere they want, but there’s something about the resources, about the environment, about the food, the habitat, just the amount of energy that emanates from this land that draws more life into the system.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s so important. One of the things that was sort of amazing to me is that you weren’t kind of ripping up the land, like most ranchers do. You weren’t actually growing one crop to feed a bunch of cows. You had 30 or 40 different seeds, many of which are native to the area, many of which restore nitrogen in the soil. Instead of having to pour nitrogen fertilizer, the plants actually provide the nitrogen back in. The soil isn’t disturbed. You have this incredible machine that was a no-till seed machine. They just made a tiny little kind of groove in the soil, then placed the seed , and patted it down. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. We literally went out of the field… We’re eating peas from the field, probably stealing it from the bison, and it was amazing.
Then you’re talking about you were in a drought then. You were there in March and it was a drought, and all your neighbors literally had to sell their cattle, but you still had all the bison on your land because the soil was able to hold all the water that did fall. There wasn’t a lot that falls in that area, but it held all the water and there were creeks. You said there were navigational creeks that had been dried up for decades and decades that the settlers used to navigate their way out west.
Now, the creeks were coming back to life and the water was seeping through the soil and into the creeks. Like you said, the bald eagles were coming back and there were plants that were germinating seeds that had been dormant in the soil for who knows how many year. A hundred maybe plus years? And when the bison pooped on them, they somehow have this unique relationship with these species of bison… Something special in the bison poop actually caused these seeds to germinate. It’s this incredible ecosystem that was being restored and it was just incredible to see.
What was really interesting to me was these were basically still wild animals. You barely did anything to them. They just kind of roamed around. They call it Roam Ranch, I guess. They just roamed around and you kind of moved them from pasture to pasture to pasture in order to feed on the grass and not overgraze and then move to the next spot and then not overgraze and move to the next spot. By doing that, you created this really incredibly healthy species. You didn’t have a lot of vet bill. There wasn’t antibiotics. There weren’t [inaudible 00:28:21] hormones. You weren’t doing much except giving them water and planting a few seeds to help grow these native species.
They were super healthy and vibrant and they were living in their social groups. It was quite interesting to see how… I wouldn’t know if I can say happy they were, but they were living in a way that was really very much similar to how they lived on the land 152 and 300 years ago. You had this incredible way of actually calling the herd in order to produce meat that you could then sell.
I’d love you to share a little bit about that process, because for me, we’re so divorced from our food. We’re so disconnected. We go to the grocery store, we see a slab of meat or a piece of chicken or whatever, and you don’t really connect it to the animal/ You don’t understand how it was produced. You don’t know any of that. Even vegetables or fruit, basically, but especially animals. Yet it was this incredibly moving thing that happened that’s called this bison harvest. I’d love you to share a little bit about that experience, why you do it, what it’s like, and why it’s actually probably the most humane way to actually raise and grow and harvest meat.

Taylor Collins: Yeah. Wow. You paid attention during all those tours. You get a plus. I feel like you’re ready to give those tours.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wait, this is already two or three months later. I still was like, “I tell you, it was one of the most moving things.” They always say that your memory is connected to emotional experiences, and if you have a deep emotional experience, it’s stored memory. It was one of the most compelling moving things that I’d ever seen being on that ranch, because I’ve written a lot about regenerative agriculture, I visited some organic farms, and I’ve done that, but I’ve really never seen a bison ranch before.

Taylor Collins: Yeah. The bison harvest, this is a beautiful community experience that we curate and we do it during the cooler seasons, the cooler months of the year for obvious reasons so that we can take our time, be outside, really celebrate the life of this animal together with people who come from all over the world. I mean, we’ve had people travel to Texas from Australia, from Argentina, obviously all over the United States, to attend in this.
What happens is a community of strangers come together and we collect at the ranch early in the morning and we talk about in our view, in our perspective, how to truly honor an animal. The way that we think about honoring an animal, we’ll just say there’s three steps involved. The first step is allowing that animal, which in this circumstance would be the North American Bison. We allow it the opportunity to express its full innate biological potential.
That gift that the bison gives through millions of years of co-evolution with our grasslands is that it has allowed to create a net positive return on the ecosystem. By that bison being there, and we’re managing that bison as that bison has co-created with landscapes for millennia, we are drawing down carbon, we’re increasing biodiversity, we’re infiltrating water more effectively, we’re creating habitat. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So, that’s really step one. If you want to honor an animal, you have to allow it to exist as it was biologically engineered to exist and eat the food that it was engineered to consume, to eat.
Then the second premise is how that animal dies is as equally important to how that animal lives. For a snapshot in the industrial agriculture system, what it looks like with large animals like bison, cows, sheep, goats is they’re typically loaded on a trailer, a livestock trailer. Sometimes it’s a double-decker trailer, so the animals on top are (censored) on the animals underneath them. In the circumstance of bison, animals are shipped across the entire country.
One of our local places that we bring bison to occasionally… Last time we were there dropping off a load, there was an 18 wheeler that had just driven 20 hours from Wyoming to deliver a hundred bison for slaughter. Like you said, these bison, they have retained all their wild genetics. They’re not domesticated. For that species to be loaded on a trailer, to be taken off the land that it recognizes as its home, stripped from its community, stripped from its food source, put on a trailer, transported on a highway at high speeds for 20 hours, that is high stress. That changes the spiritual energy of that animal. It changes the taste of the animal and the texture of the animal.
Then that animal is unloaded from a trailer and it’s put in a very sterile artificial environment, which would be a slaughter plant. It’s like a mechanized, industrialized end of life, where that animal is scared, it’s stressed, and it’s just a terrible way to transition into the next form. What we do at the ranch, which is very different, is we do a field harvest.
To contrast what I just painted, in this circumstance, that group of community, including you when you came out, we drove out into the herd of the bison and we were very low stress. It was a very peaceful moment. Everyone’s matching the energy, putting in the right energy to take out the right energy. A shooter targets a specific predetermined animal, that animal falls in the field, and then we allow this really sacred space, this opportunity for people to be very present.
We prohibit cellphones during this moment. You better not film this because we want your eyes on it. Because in many circumstances, this is the first time people have ever intimately interacted with death. This is something that our species has done for 250,000 years. Modern humans, we have done this in community and we’ve had an intimate connection with the animal that, through its gift, is sustaining our life, sustaining our bodies.
So we allow about 10 minutes after the harvest for each animal in the herd to come up and really process the loss of one of its herd mates. It looks like some circumstances, every animal will actually nudge it. The last animal to leave its side is going to be either its calf, if it’s a cow, or it could be… If we harvest a bull, it could be its mom. Three years of growth, its mom is still by its side at its death. But we think that’s a beautiful end of life transition, where you are out in your community, you’re with your family, you are eating your favorite food, you are on the land that you love and that is home, and in a split second, it’s lights out, you feel no suffering. There really is an expansion of energy at that moment, where the herds see something and they feel something and they process it. To observe it as a human is really special and sacred and it’s something to learn from.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It was remarkable. I mean, I don’t exactly understand what was going on in the herd. I imagine this might happen in the wild, too, where all the other bison gathered around and almost paid their last respects. It was this really sacred moment almost like waiting for the bison spirit to kind of leave. I don’t know how to sort of think about it, but it was one of the most moving things and everybody was just silent and people were crying.
Then afterwards, the bison was actually butchered. To watch it actually be butchered and then to actually eat the raw bison heart, to see the liver, to see the heart, to see the lungs, to see the intestines… I mean, the intestines were huge because they have to process all this grass.
What was really interesting was that when we harvested it, the entire inside of the fat was all bright orange. Can you explain why that’s bright orange? Because most cow fat is white. If you go buy a steak in the grocery store, it’s typically white fat. Why is it so orange?

Taylor Collins: Yeah, it’s two things. It’s a reflection of the animal’s diet. It’s the fact that the animal is allowed to select between a very biodiverse mix of green growing plants and where it’s fixing the nutrients that add to the higher level of omega threes in the fat. And that’s in contrast to an industrial feedlot grain-fed cow or bison, where on the inside of that carcass, that fat would have no color. That fat would be white, so it’s very different.
And then the second component, too, is the age of the animal, where… Bison, because they’ve never been bred for production, they’re still wild animals. It takes three years to have a grass-fed animal ready for harvest. Because of that, that animal is living a lot longer of a life. It’s allowing those minerals and those vitamins to be fixed through the circulation of blood, through the muscles. They’re very active animals. Just over time, it’s an accumulation of nutrient density. Whereas in a beef cow operation, it could be as little as 14 to 16 months of an animal’s life before they are harvested in that industrial setting.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Can you talk about the difference between the quality of the nutrition and the meat you get from, for example, a regeneratively generally raised bison versus a feedlot cow?

Taylor Collins: Yep. Robby, have you been reading up on some of the Stephan van Vliet information?

Robby Sansom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Stephan… I know you’ve had him on the podcast, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Yeah.

Robby Sansom: He issued a report on this maybe less than a month ago. They took a herd of bison and it was something remarkable. I think it was only the last four months of life. They were all raised on pasture their entire life, and then only the last four months took some and continued to finish them on pasture, as Taylor has described. And then the others put them in into a… They called them feeding pens. The best case example of a feed lot… They were lower density, still free choice with grass and other feed supplements, so not piled shoulder to shoulder, not exclusively corn and soy and leftover Doritos and the other crap that goes into feedlots and-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Skittles.

Robby Sansom: Totally.

Dr. Mark Hyman: There was a great story of this truck that spilled in, had an accident, and a giant truckload, a tractor, trailer, 18-wheeler of expired Skittles… It was on its way to a feed lot to be fed to the cows.

Robby Sansom: Yeah. They’re not doing a very good job of removing the wrappers on those either, but that’s beside the point. In this case, that unfortunate reality of the confinement feed system that most of the industry relies upon isn’t even the example of confinement we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a luxurious confinement system relative to that and only for the last four months. You’ve talked a lot about phytonutrients and phytochemicals, these important magical compounds in food. I think there was something like 3.2 times more phytochemicals found in the pasture-raised animals meat than in the ones that spent the last four months in confinement.
When you talk about nutrient density, it is unbelievable to think about just how profound that can be. When you look at it, they were measuring something 1,500 different compounds and some 600 something of them were exponentially more significant in the pasture finished system. It’s been your whole life there. It’s really exciting for me, but it’s also cutting edge. I mean, it just hasn’t been really researched to this extent yet and we’re scratching the surface. I think we’ll continue to find more and more examples of the benefits of nutritionally and from a health perspective of these systems.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s amazing, Robby. Taylor, what have you learned most by being a regenerative rancher and actually doing the work as opposed to talking about it like I do?

Taylor Collins: To me, it really boils down to a couple fundamental nuggets. These are really gifts. The architecture, it’s in place. It’s mother nature’s wisdom that she shares. And the biggest one for me is just the focus, the emphasis on the importance of biodiversity in a system, which really is one of the key differentiators between a conventional industrial system and a regenerative system, where an industrial agriculture were typically growing a single species of plant or even a single animal. You could have a pig farmer only raises pigs.
Well, nowhere in nature will you find a monoculture. It doesn’t exist, because through biodiversity, nature is programming a system of resilience and a system of synergies and ways to have mutualistic relationships where the entire system is elevated. Through that example and through that wisdom of biodiversity, I mean, as much as we can do to celebrate every living organism on this planet and setting a place at the table for every single migratory bird or every single native mammal, we want them here because they all serve a role.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s so important. Can you talk also about the concern that… I think it’s a legitimate concern that animal agriculture is actually a destructive force for climate and the concern that meat actually may be harmful to you. What is your kind of current thinking about these things? Because I think there’s a lot of conversation about how it’s important that we eat less meat, that we be vegan in order to protect our health and the health of the planet. I know you were vegetarian and I was, too, and I think both of us now think up quite differently. Can you talk about that journey for yourself and also what you know as a rancher about the real value of integrating animals into an agricultural system and into our own diet?

Taylor Collins: Sure. I think you already alluded to it earlier on the podcast, but there’s never been a point in human history where we have been further separated from the source of our food, from the source of life. I think that is with intention and that’s with design. The big food companies don’t want you to have intimate relationships with farms and ranches. There’s something like less than 1% of US citizens have actually visited a farm or a ranch in which they buy food from. So, just the scale of that separation.
When you don’t have that connection with a farm, with a ranch, with a rancher, well, you’re really just outsourcing your purchasing patterns and your habits and you don’t have a realistic portrayal of what’s happening out on land. In our journey, it was going to monocultures of plants, it was visiting suppliers of people who were raising beef cows regeneratively, and it was seeing that fence line that you so articulately described and it was seeing it for yourself. The people who advocate for less animals, more plants, or more processed plant-based foods in our diets… I have to say, when was the last time you’ve been out to a soy farm or a corn farm or a wheat farm or a rice farm? The truth is those people, for the most part, have never actually seen the food system that they’re advocating for. But it truly is an ecological desert for all practical purposes.
When you fight mother nature’s desire for biodiversity, your tools are mechanical tools, chemical tools, and as much destruction as you can create to control that monoculture. For us, in our own wisdom journey, it’s just seeing it for yourself is believing. Now, we’re never going to advocate for an animal-based or meat-based diet or a system where animals are confined. We think that’s inhumane. We think that that should be illegal. That’s not good for the animal, that’s not good for the consumer, that’s not good for the environment, but what we’re advocating for is very different. I also think a lot of the research and a lot of the discussion out there is focusing on these feedlot systems, but it’s neglecting to adjust this regenerative system where it’s not only animals but it’s plants and animals in synchrony and in harmony as mother nature’s design that system for billions of years.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s so true. I think I often refer to myself as an ecological doctor because I take care of the human ecosystem. As a result, people get healthy and you don’t actually have to treat disease. In the same way, you just create a healthy ecosystem and the bison thrive, wildlife thrives, the soil thrives, water systems thrive. You’re resistant to drought and floods. You create incredible value we call ecosystem services that give back to the planet as opposed to steal from the planet.
I mean, basically there’s $2 trillion every year that we steal from the planet and ecosystem services. That means we steal the soil, we steal the water resources, we kill the biodiversity. There’s a cost to all that and it’s actually not insignificant and we pay it and we’re paying it in many ways through climate change, for example. One-third of all the carbon in the atmosphere now is from the loss of soil carbon through the mechanistic way we grow food and the industrialization of agriculture.
People don’t think about that. Or the fact that we’re seeing droughts and floods and extreme weather patterns. Part of that is due to the fact that our soils and our lands can’t manage water anymore. It was so striking to me to see this desert on one side of the fence and your lush burden ranch on the other side of the fence, to see drought on one side of the land and a creek come back to life on the other in the middle of a drought. It was really brought home for me.
It’s not just this abstract idea, but to see it happen… Boom, it happened fast. We’re not talking about a hundred years, which it took to destroy the land. We’re talking about a couple of years in which you multiplied the organic matter in the soil by sixfold, which is just crazy when you think about it. I think we’re in this moment where we have to come to grips with the reality that we can’t do things the way we’re doing them anymore and we can’t provide a food system that grows the food the way we do that produces the sort of amount of industrial food that’s killing us and making us sick and the planet sick. One of the things that I loved about being there was just seeing how this actually could be done in real life.
Robby, I’d love for you to talk about your learnings as you’ve gone around the planet, literally the planet, finding and sourcing animal food from regenerative farms. Before you do that, I wanted just either of you to talk a quick summary of what’s the difference between regenerative or organic or grass-fed or conventional, because a lot of terms are throwing around. I think people just need to clarify that. Then I want you to talk about the scale of this issue, because this sounds great, it’s cute, you have a hobby, ranch, whatever, 900 acres, but we got to feed the world. Right? It’s not scalable, it’s a pipe dream. It’s a little bit of a nice fantasy for a bunch of hippies who want to grow grass-fed meat. What actually can this be scaled to and how can this be really a global solution?
Talk about first what is regenerative agriculture and then what you’ve learned as a potential for scale in this area and what have you done actually with Force of Nature to create a marketplace for these places around the world that are doing the right thing.

Robby Sansom: Happy to get into that. I think I talked a lot about the learnings from traveling around and just highlighting, again, the scale and concerning realities that this food production system are manifesting at a global scale. When I think about what regenerative is and particularly how it varies from the standard system, as well as from the organic system, everything I highlighted earlier on and discussed… Those global crises from pollinators to dead zones to things that you didn’t even mention, like glyphosate showing up in urine and breast milk and…

Dr. Mark Hyman: Oh, that.

Robby Sansom: Reproductive rates down and cancer rates up and life expectancy declining and nobody wants to talk about it. All of these things that we’ve pointed to as challenges, I believe, are significantly, if not entirely, the result of that conventional industrial agriculture system. I think organic is a critical milestone in the journey to improving our food system, but it is not a destination. I do not want to disparage it because it’s been so necessary and beginning to peel back the layers of the onions and getting to the core of the problem. What it does really well is it prohibits certain practices, like the spraying of various chemicals directly onto the food and directly onto the land, some 40% of which run off, like you had discussed, and go under waterways and oceans, and it prohibits other certain practices.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wait. But can you just define regenerative agriculture? What is it? It’s like five principles, 10 things. What is the current thinking about what term is a regenerative system?

Robby Sansom: Getting past organic and into regenerative, in its simplest form, it’s farming in nature’s image. It replaces the system we’ve been discussing, which is based off of chemical inputs and industrial domination of land as well as animals. And it replaces with one that seeks to see land and life and everything in between thrive. It’s working with that wisdom encoded into billions of years of evolution instead of trying to fight against it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: But to my understanding, there’s principles like no tillage, leaving roots in the ground, not using chemicals, integrating animals. There’s these principles. I don’t know, I probably missed a few, but those are really important. Why are they so important? And maybe, Taylor, you’re the guy who’s doing every day. If you have a quick summary and then we can get into what you’re seeing around the world, Robby.

Taylor Collins: What you’re alluding to is the six principles of soil health, which are… It’s just this beautiful framework. Again, this is based on the idea that all farmland, all ranch land, was hued from an ecosystem. At one point in time before humans changed the landscape, that land operated at a very high level because of basic ecological principles and roles that were interconnected and playing out at a very functional level. What you’re talking about… I’m going to just roll through them really quick, but one is minimizing soil disturbance. Number two is having a green growing plant year round. Number three is-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Cover crops, like never leaving the soil bare?

Taylor Collins: Bingo, buddy. It’s not leaving the soil bare, but it’s also utilizing the power of photosynthesis to put carbon in the soil and to feed the biology of the soil system. Number four, we will say, is positive animal impact, which, in our mind, that’s the most important one. It’s like in all ecosystems, animals are a part of that ecosystem. When you remove animals, especially from savannas and grasslands, those ecosystems will collapse eventually. Number six would be context. That basically says-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Context? Yeah.

Taylor Collins: Yes. And that is waking up in the morning and looking at your own beautiful face in the mirror and realizing that you’re a human and that we’re all different and that we all have different goals and we all have different resources. We have different finances, we have different ecological regions, we’re managing different rainfall, different soil types. What’s right for me might not be what’s right for you. And so, really, embracing that principle.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. If you’re in a lush place like in California or something like that, it’s different than if you’re in the sort of deserty Texas. Right? It’s different.

Taylor Collins: Exactly. I always say like, “Hey, if you love….” I love bananas. I just ate a banana with some beef. And if I want to grow bananas here in Central Texas, well, that’s probably a terrible idea because they’re going to get annihilated by the first [inaudible 00:52:42].

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Robby Sansom: Those principles are really critical, Mark. Thanks for pushing and asking on that. In fact, Taylor and I did a podcast on our channel. We spent an hour and a half and all we did was go through those principles.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Robby, now take us through what you’re seeing globally in Force of Nature’s role. Because Force of Nature isn’t a ranch, it’s basically a aggregator, a marketer, distributor of regenerative products from around the world. As a doctor, like I said before, I want my patients to try to eat regenerative meat. I write about it. In my head, as I’m writing this, I’m like, “Good luck finding it,” in my head. And I’m like, “Maybe one day this will be true.” It’s like Steve Jobs takes the CD player out of the computer. I’m like, “What the hell are you doing? We need a CD player. How am I going to put my music and watch my videos?” I just don’t even see the future, but there is a future out there that looks quite different. I think Force of Nature, to me, is one of the most important companies out there actually help people to find and use these products and support these often small and growing ranches and farms around the world.

Robby Sansom: Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is create awareness and access for consumers in its simplest form. And then I’ll expand on that, obviously, but consumers are so powerful. Nobody’s going to make a product the consumer won’t buy. I think the reality on our food system, all the stuff that we’ve been talking about and we’ll continue to talk about, is that it’s either not available to the consumer, they’re just not aware, or it’s not presented in a way that they can actually process and make tangible, and then beyond that, even a call to action where, “Okay, now that I know this. I’m inspired.”
I’ve come to Roam Ranch and I’ve had this epiphany and this incredible emotional experience that’s imprinted on your brain, as you’ve noted, but then now what the heck do I do about it? I think you even lamented on that challenge. And that’s where Force of Nature is and why we started the company, trying to make sure that consumers are aware of these issues and that they understand.
It’s not my job to tell a consumer what to think and feel, but at least to give them, for the first time in history, access to the truth behind the products that they’re complicit and supporting in the system that absolutely play a critical role in. And then separately, once they do something with that, to make it a little easier on them, to support and vote for a system that aligns more closely with their values. I think what we’re finding time and again is that consumers that want a system that has a fewer compromise in the form of health and wellness, in the form of welfare of animals, in the form of ecosystem and ecological impact, and social issues and in rural areas.
Then of course with the power of the consumer, we can obviously work on the other frontline with land stewards and ranchers and farmers all around the country and even across the globe, eventually, to justify improving their practices. Again, they are in a sharecropper type system. Even in the States, we are pushing and squeezing farmers off of the land and forcing them into a hopeless situation. The path out of that for them also is in regenerative, but the system makes that leap unnecessarily large and difficult.
If we can come to the table and pay a premium and connect them to this regenerative supply network, connect them to those consumers who value what they’re doing, and are willing to pay for it, then we can begin to create a flywheel where there’s more consumers with more access, sending more signals into these markets and economies, putting regenerative more on the radar for other good actors who deserve to be beneficiaries of this, as well as to the large incumbents who have been taking advantage and profiting off of the destruction of so many key constituencies and stakeholders.
And then, again, similarly, continue to scale and grow the network of food producers and give them more sovereignty, all while addressing all of the challenges that you’ve noted and been addressing or have been acknowledging. At its simplest form, that’s really where Force of Nature comes into the equation. We’re just trying to be a factor in stimulating all of those outcomes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Talk about some of the places you’ve visited and some of the things you’ve seen and where you’re most excited about around the world, in America, other countries. What are you seeing out there?

Robby Sansom: Yeah, I think the-

Dr. Mark Hyman: [inaudible 00:57:06] venison from… I don’t know, it was New Zealand or something.

Robby Sansom: Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You can’t raise venison for commercial purposes here, but you can do it in New Zealand. What are you seeing out there?

Robby Sansom: You even mentioned it, too, and I’ll get into about feeding a growing population. But when you look at how the US produces food, it’s pretty unique. We’ve done the most to go the furthest and deepest down the rabbit hole of absolutely trying to industrialize and pursuit of yield and profit at the expense of everything else. That’s what Taylor and Force of Nature… We say commodification. That’s what we’ve pegged our entire system around. We think of that as the pursuit of cheapness at the expense of all else, and you don’t see that necessarily in Europe.
I think, whenever you visited… We talked about going to Europe and buying bread. Well, it’s because they’re using grains that haven’t been morphed into a shell of their former and biological intention and reality. The same thing can be said with breeds of poultry. You go around the world and you see subsistence farming at scale and people feeding themselves and their communities, and you see most of the food or much of the food available for sale in the United States is illegal in the European Union. Even some of the things that we sell are illegal in Mexico.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow.

Robby Sansom: I think, as you travel around, you start to see the mids, the lies that we are fed by this complex, this big food, big ag, big pharma, big chemical… I mean, even big energy. It takes a lot of petroleum to run tractors across a billion acres five times a year. There’s so much incentive going into convincing consumers, convincing our citizens that this is the way it must be to feed a growing population around the world, as if it’s our responsibility to feed everybody else on the planet.
I think, again, traveling the world, visiting ranches, I think, acknowledging that reality gives me, again, more hope for the potential that these changes in this regenerative system is not only scalable, which it is, but it’s proven and it’s obtainable, which is exciting. I think it just gives me a sense of place. It gives me a sense of trajectory and curve of progress where we sit, and again, as I was stating, that appreciation of what organic meant to giving us a step forward from the conventional system, the most conventional system.
I shared with you our experience of visiting a regenerative bison ranch and acknowledging that it shares a fence line. A 45-minute drive down a highway on your right side is a regenerative bison ranch, and on your left side is the world’s largest organic farm. That organic farm looks like the surface of the moon. It is tilled earth. It has emitted carbon for that tillage. It has no life on it. The regenerative farm on the other side has all of those principles of soil health we just discussed in place. Its water cycle, its energy cycle, its nutrient cycle are all thriving. It has habitat for endangered species. There’s deer and antelope and bison and mammals and amphibians and birds all flourishing there.
I think, again, not to disparage organic, but look at how popular organic has gotten under the pretense that it is better and that consumers will pay a premium for it. That is so encouraging and so important to know that the next step in that journey, the next milestone in improving our system is going from organic, which is now purchased in something like 80% of households at least one time a year of late, and moving the bar up to regenerative.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think most people who are probably listening are like, “Okay, yeah, I get it. This makes sense. We want to restore ecosystems. We want to farm and ranch in ecological ways that restore biodiversity, soil health, water tables, don’t kill tons of animals through all the chemicals we use, and humans, and on and on and on.” Everybody’s bought in. If people want to really do that and switch over from organic to regenerative, can we get there? What are the obstacles in the way? And can this really be a global solution or is it just still going to be always a niche market?

Robby Sansom: Well, again, it goes back to that illusion of choice. I think we can get there. I think our hand is forced. I think we have to make change. Is it possible? You gave the example of Roam ranch? The stocking density on that ranch is, I think, two or three… I think it might be three or four times the stocking density of the rest of that county. If you look at the land use as it stands-

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, that means you can put more animals on a smaller piece of land, restore the land, and produce more food??

Robby Sansom: Or put differently, you can feed more people on the same amount of land, but yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Okay. Yeah, thank you.

Robby Sansom: And offer them more nutritional density in that food. Regenerative farms like Taylor’s income stack, so they have numerous revenue streams. It’s not just that you can put more bison or cows on it; it’s that when you add in beef and poultry and other things. It becomes somewhat exponential, certainly factorial. I think when you look at the other hurdles, though… The farm bill. Your passion and mine, there’s this massive incentive to perpetuate the status quo. You just look at Tyson Smithfield because of that farm bill. When it changed most significantly back in 1996, it saved Tyson something like $300 million per year over the course of a decade because they were able to feed their poultry, a feed that they were able to purchase at a cost that was less than the cost of production. When you expand that across the top producers of chicken and the top producers of pork over the course of that decade, it saved those companies $20 billion.
There is so much going into the perpetuation of that $100 billion per year farm bill that makes it difficult to transition. But again, in spite of that, there is still optimism and there is still progress being made. I think seeing changes in that food and farm bill are a hurdle that I’m confident we can overcome. Again, I would go back to the consumer and I would say… I think we have to recognize that we’re being lied to aggressively and actively. We’re being manipulated with intent.
We are being told things like vegetarian-fed pork and poultry are a claim that we should put on the front of a package and it’s an attribute that we should celebrate. And, really, it is a red flag. It says that this animal came from an artificial and entirely synthetic and curated system, where we controlled every element and can guarantee, based on its feed supply, that it did not receive anything other than the grains that we gave it. That is not the system that we all imagine when we think about where our food is and should be coming from.
Again, I think that’s just a small example of how we need to take a step back and begin to think more independently, think more critically, be more aware, and again, understand this food system and the implications of the food system. I know it’s hard and we’re doing our very best to connect you to that and that reality and make it easier. Mark, you had a very real tangible on-farm experience. We’re trying to give microcosms of that experience to as many people as we can so they can begin to develop that level of appreciation.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s beautiful, Robby. And Taylor, I’d love you to share what your hope is now. What are you hopeful for and what is your vision of the future that you see coming to fruition?

Taylor Collins: Yeah. What gives me hope and what reminds me that we’re capable of radically changing this food system is, again, just looking back. I mean, so much of my inspiration and so much of the deepest, most profound learnings that I’ve ever observed come from nature. The fact is that what we’ve been able to accomplish out here in six years, that’s nothing compared to some of the people that have been doing regenerative agriculture for 20, 25 years.
We’re talking about some of our mentors, like Will Harris over at White Oak Pastures or Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms. I mean, those two, we talk about… In nature, it takes 500 years to build one inch of topsoil. When you hear a stat like that and then you put it right next to… Well, we can lose three or four inches of topsoil in one single rain event if our land is not covered. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out how sustainable that system is. But the beautiful part that always encourages me is that Joel Salatin, Will Harris, these guys have built five to 10 inches of topsoil in less than 25 years. This is literally-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Not 500 years, but-

Taylor Collins: No. I mean, this is like a blip on the radar. This is defying the human capacity for what we thought was the potential ability for land to heal itself. That’s just one small example and it’s, again, this capacity for heal in a natural ecosystem that’s functioning at a high level. It is so great. It is right in front of us. It is right there and it just takes so little as a civilization and as a culture to return to that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s really helpful. I think that’s a beautiful message and I think you know what you’re doing every day at Roam Ranch, Taylor, and Robbie, what you’re doing there with Force of Nature, is just incredible. I encourage everybody to check out forceofnature.com and you can find such educational content on there about land stewardship, but you’ll also find amazing food. You can get regenerative-raised bison, elk, venison, and much more. I was able to actually try many of the products and it’s just so yummy, so delicious. It tastes so different than your store bought feedlot. I think what both you’re doing is really extraordinary. Continue doing what you’re doing, I’m going to help you any way I can grow.
I think people start to try this, to use it, to learn about it… It’s going to start to shift the whole market. I mean, thinking about 50 years ago, nobody knew what organic was. Nobody ever heard of healthy eating, but now it’s kind of more mainstream. I think this is going to become more and more mainstream. I work in Washington to try to push the envelope on the farm bill and move that forward. I’m going to Washington a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for all that. Thank you, both, for what you do in the world. Keep doing it and looking forward to come back to Roam Ranch soon.

Taylor Collins: Come back anytime. Thank you, Mark.

Robby Sansom: Thanks a lot, Mark. I appreciate it. Thanks for the work you’re doing with Food Fix on the Farm Bill and everything else.

Taylor Collins: Yeah, of course.

Robby Sansom: This is what makes me excited, conversations like these happening more and more.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s happening. I can tell you, it’s happening. There’s stuff shifting in Washington and I think it’s because of the work that people like you are doing and others. For those of you who love this podcast, please share with your friends and family. Everybody needs to hear this message. Have you learned about how to shift your relationship to food and agriculture and how have you done that? We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe everywhere you get your podcast and we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Closing: Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their Find a Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

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