Why you can have your steak, and eat it too!
Is it economically feasible?
Simply producing the vegetables, fruits, grains, poultry, or meat is one question. Being able to commercially produce food with an economically feasible model, is quite another. The arithmetic is the same, no matter what business you are in. In farming, this generally comes down to the cost of inputs and yields. In the conventional approach, the cost of inputs includes things like the cost of seeds – often more expensive, proprietary GMO versions, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. If the GMO seeds require things like additional water (which for example, standard commercial GMO corn grown in arid locations can require much greater water usage than native, indigenous, heritage varieties like Navajo corn) this can be an additional consideration. In many areas of the world, particularly Secondary and Third World countries, the technical expertise and financing to grow these crops is provided by large agricultural concerns. Such countries often do not have the resources to directly support their farmers and thus rely on international conglomerates to do it for them.
A regenerative farming approach offers an economically viable alternative. Fazenda da Toca, which is Pedro Paulo Diniz’s family farm, is the largest organic egg producer in Brazil; producing over 50% of all the organic egg sold in the country. In growing their wheat, the Lozenskys no longer have to buy fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. As Kelly summarizes,
“[W]e no longer are held back in our decisions based on the cost of inputs. So our margins are much broader than they were when we were spending countless hours treating sick plants.”
In addition to reducing the cost of inputs, for farmers utilizing the regenerative approach, yields can be even higher than conventional agriculture. Diniz reported that by the second harvest, many of these farmers noted similar or better results compared to traditional agriculture. As a benefit, there was a growth in biodiversity, and the farmers realized a doubling of profits. Fabio Sakamoto, partner to Diniz in the Rizoma Agro venture, believes that in the long term, the ability to produce food without expensive upfront costs will result in additive free food (modern day organic products) at or less than the current price for conventional comestibles. Such price points promise producers access to large markets that in turn helps solidify their economic health.
Is it economically feasible? The results are clear; absolutely.
Can it feed the world?
If such methods can be done (they can), and they are economically sustainable (they are), then the next question that follows is can they be executed on a large enough scale to feed the world? This is the question that for many years we have been told that there is only one answer. Only modern industrial agribusiness has the solutions (and the products) that can produce enough food to feed the world.
Successful commercial producers like the Lozenskys in the United States and Fazenda da Toca in Brazil and many others around the world suggest an alternative solution. Diniz clarifies,
“[W]e must undo myths about industrial agriculture. For example, we can feed the world with regenerative organic agriculture. The results speak for themselves: this year alone, we had higher corn yields compared to conventional agriculture corn. We had areas with more than 180 bushels, which is enormous…The first thing people say is ‘okay, organic agriculture is nice, good for the environment, healthier, but you cannot feed the world with it.’ I’ve heard that for a long time, to which I’ve always said, ‘I don’t think that’s true.’
And now I can prove it. We now have research to back up our results. [We have] a 30-year trial of comparisons between conventional and organic agriculture, concluding that yields can be similar or better. That goes to show what we’ve been seeing on a large-scale now. So, yes, we can feed the world with regenerative organic agriculture, while also having all of its fantastic impacts.
Can it feed the world? Yes.
Is it sustainable and in accordance with addressing climate change concerns?
We now circle back to our original query about sustainability and climate change. It seems an unacceptable trade-off to essentially outlaw the consumption of red meat, or at least beef, in the name of climate change. That is, if the answer is an increase or even a continuation of an industrially based monocrop solution that yields only “green deserts.” Barren soil burnt with fertilizers, GMO plants loaded with toxins, and herbicides and pesticides that indiscriminately annihilate the ecosystem does not sound like a sustainable response. In truth, it seems a bit of a disingenuous proposal.
As reported elsewhere:
Rizoma’s citrus agroforestry systems can offset up to 50 tons of carbon per hectare and Rizoma’s organic grains offset up to 8 tons of carbon per hectare. Imaflora, a Brazilian think-tank dedicated to environmental research, conducted a study from 2018–2019 and found that the soil of the corn and soy crops in Rizoma’s farms are sequestering 1.9 tons of carbon per hectare per year, while the average carbon balance of conventional corn and soy crops worldwide is 6.2 tons of carbon emitted [italics mine] per hectare per year.
In other words, Rizoma’s grain production can offset a total 8.1 tons of carbon per hectare annually. At a recent impact investing event in Rio, the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered per hectare on Rizoma’s farms during a year was extrapolated to global agricultural land. The projection revealed that if global soy, corn, fruit and cattle production were farmed with Rizoma’s regenerative organic grains, agroforestry, and silvopasture systems, they would offset 46 percent [italics mine] of the CO2 produced by humans in one year.
Is it sustainable and in accordance with addressing climate change concerns? Clearly, yes!
If this is such a promising solution, why don’t we see an immediate, worldwide adoption of such agricultural practices? What roadblocks remain?