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Meat or Plants: Which is Better for Reversing Climate Change?


Using the lens of Functional Medicine, we know we can’t blame just one part of the body for disease or dysfunction. The same goes for agriculture and climate change. We can’t just blame cows and call it a day. It’s a complex issue that deserves a comprehensive plan of action.

Regenerative agriculture recognizes the essential role of grazing animals in an ecosystem to create stronger soils, healthier crops, and produce better meat. On today’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I sit down with Nicolette Hahn Niman to explore where we’ve gone wrong when it comes to raising meat, some of the biggest areas to focus on for a positive climate impact, and so much more. As a vegetarian rancher for almost two decades who now eats meat, she offers a unique perspective on raising and eating animals.

At one point in time, cows were labeled enemy number one when it came to greenhouse gases and climate change. Sadly, that label has lingered. Conventionally raised cattle are absolutely a problem, but that doesn’t mean all cattle are. It’s also important to note that while cows account for about 5% of methane production, food waste in landfills accounts for 16%. Nicolette and I discuss how cows who are free to graze on pasture are improving our ecosystems, literally from the ground up, and can improve carbon sequestration to fight climate change.

Nicolette has recently updated her book Defending Beef to expand on a topic she’s spent her whole adult life studying. We talk about her history as a vegetarian and why getting older and discovering she had poor bone density caused her to shift her diet to include consciously raised meat.

We also talk about the evolving industry of lab meat. While many people think this is a completely harmless approach to meat, it’s important to realize where the medium from some of these products comes from—fetal serum from pregnant cows. There is a darker side to this industry than what is advertised and Nicolette explains why it may not be the solution it’s been touted to be.

Nicolette is an incredible resource for understanding the role of animals in all forms of agriculture and climate change. I hope you’ll tune in to learn more and gain a wider view of the nuances between meat, health, and our climate problems.

Topics Covered

  • Four popular camps of thinking around meat production and consumption


  • The history of how beef came to gain the reputation as the most environmentally destructive and least healthy food we eat, and why this is actually a much more nuanced issue than the question, is beef good or bad?


  • Is regenerative agriculture the solution to climate change?


  • Why Nicolette started eating meat again after decades of being a vegetarian and what she noticed about her food cravings after making this change


  • The vital role that beef and animals play in creating healthy food and ecological systems


  • Soil as the foundation of the food system and planetary sustainability


  • Why we need to move away from the dualistic view of meat vs. no meat


  • Animal and human’s innate nutritional wisdom


  • The latest research on methane, cattle, and global warming and what we previously got wrong


  • The role of policy in mitigating climate change


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Ep. - Meat or Plants: Which is Better for Reversing Climate Change?