We don't need to quit eating meat. Let's instead engage with our food system and ask questions about how our food was grown no matter what we eat.
Veganuary is an annual campaign that encourages people worldwide to go vegan for the month of January. Having been vegan for years through my late teens and early twenties resulting in severe health consequences that I’m still recovering from today…a decade into my #exvegan journey, I propose an alternative.
If you’re wary about going vegan for the month (or any length of time), I encourage you to try “Regenuary” instead.
Regenuary was first coined in a 2020 Facebook post by The Ethical Butcher, a U.K.-based, regenerative butchershop, in response to the growing #veganuary buzz.
Simply swapping out beef and pork for nuts and avocado is utterly meaningless and definitely worse for the environment than simply choosing to eat well-raised animals.
As we import things such as avocado and soy-based fake meats to attempt to fill the gaps what impact are we actually having? Are we saving the planet?
Imagine if Veganuary could be Regenuary where all foods eaten for the month of January are not imported, are local seasonal and the animals are farmed using regenerative agriculture, now that could save the world.
This last line sums up the essence of Regenuary: source as much of your food as possible from regenerative farming practices.
At the movement’s core are the following guiding principles:
Regeneration International and Eat Wild have maps that can help point you toward your nearest regenerative farmer. Though many producers are active online and on social media, your best bet may just be your local farmers' market (find one near you here!). There, you can connect with a number of farmers and growers. And even if they’re not fully regenerative, they’re your local farmer, growing seasonal foods appropriate for your region, and that’s most important. Oftentimes, farmers can’t afford certifications but are incorporating nature-positive growing methods and would love to share their practices with you.
However you find a local producer, be sure to connect with them. Ask questions. Hear their stories. Be flexible with what you order, and ask your farmer what he or she has an abundance of or is having trouble moving. It’s a great way to discover new cuts of meat or vegetables that aren’t part of your usual lineup.
“Fun fact: 70 percent of the world’s food comes from smallholder farmers and indigenous people, and a lot of them are farming regeneratively,” said Heather Terry, the CEO of GoodSam Foods. “Regenerative agriculture is arguably one of the easiest ways to combat climate change by seriously limiting or eliminating fertilizers altogether and by not using tilling methods which release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
“When you buy regenerative, you contribute to the welfare of the farmers farming this way, and you’re helping to combat the climate crisis.”
Eating regeneratively can feel hard and expensive. But, with a little know-how combined with smart, low-waste cooking, you can transform your diet and health, all while regenerating the planet.
While the intent of most vegans and participants of Veganuary may be pure, going vegan will not fix agriculture’s impact on the planet.
Swapping out meat and other animal foods for plant-based burgers and other meat substitutes won’t fix the underlying problems in our food system. Switching meat for substitutes is akin to telling consumers to install different upholstery in their vehicles instead of exploring ways to reduce their fossil fuel dependence.
To improve agriculture’s relationship with environmental and human health, we need to encourage farmers to adopt different practices throughout the entire system - not just in livestock production. Claims that certain soy burgers can save the planet without providing any information about how those soybeans were grown does nothing to support better agriculture. Did farmers use cover cropping? No-till drilling? Copious amounts of chemicals like pesticides and herbicides?
By opting out of the system entirely, and not eating meat at all, we don’t change how meat is produced.
We don’t need to quit eating meat. We need to engage with our food system and ask questions about how our food was grown no matter what we eat.
Full disclosure: I understand the incredible privilege it is to advocate for any specific diet. For anyone for who the above may seem inaccessible or out of reach, my advice is this:
Eat the highest quality diet you can afford.
“Quality” is subjectively defined as foods raised as well as possible in the context of your local ecosystem, prepared as thoughtfully as possible given your unique life circumstances, and eaten as culturally-appropriate as possible that honors your heritage. “Afford” is subjectively defined as accessible via cost, timing, location, and situation.
We’re all in different bodies that are subject to different stressors within various environments, ecosystems, and familial situations.
In short, try your best; your best is always good enough.