GLEN BURROWS ON CHANGING THE NARRATIVE AROUND THE MEAT INDUSTRY
by Natalie Smith
Our Founder, Natalie Smith, talks to Glen Burrows – Co-founder of The Ethical Butcher and originator of Regenuary – about his efforts to change the narrative around the meat industry and its effects on the environment.
How is The Ethical Butcher disrupting the food industry?
We set out with the intention of being an industry disruptor by not just shortening the supply chain and also bringing a new level of true transparency to the industry but the main thing we’re doing is spreading the message that the production of meat can actually repair our soils, restore biodiversity and have a completely different impact then the current narrative might suggest.
Could you please explain the concept of regenerative farming?
Very simply it’s treating the animal as a part of an ecosystem where the animals farmed have, in one way or another, had a net benefit to the environment they live in. I really like this definition: Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.
What is Regenuary? And how did Regenuary start?
We started the movement of Regenuary to simply break the overly simplistic narrative from Veganuary that 'all animal agriculture always has a greater negative impact than any plant based agriculture', as this is far from true. As with so many things, the devil is in the details. As the movement has progressed it’s evolved into a bigger conversation about the impact of food choices and how we can make better decisions, not just in January but throughout the year.
How can farming meat be net carbon positive?
The concept of net positive animal farming is essentially very simple. The animals are managed so that the interaction of them with land speeds up the cycling of nutrients. This encourages and increases plant growth which removes carbon through biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. When this happens at a faster rate than is possible without the animals, and at a greater net rate than emissions from the animals, this can be said to be carbon positive, also, the animals themselves are made carbon based lifeforms!
We source our leathers for Naru’s bags from regenerative and organic farms and we love how The Ethical Butcher’s suppliers come from regenerative farming - do you think that the meat industry has the potential to be seen as a positive contributor towards the environment? Or is there still a long way to go?
Wow, this is a big question! It’s hard to not get trapped in a bubble of being surrounded by like minded people but the harsh truth is that until the billions of pounds of finance that have been thrown at the plant based narrative are lost as the experiment fails we are fighting an information war which is very much a David and Goliath situation, however, we all know who won that in the end! Consumers are beginning to see nuance in the complexity of the problem and this will definitely help to catalyse change.
Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems.
How do you make sure that your suppliers are actively improving the environment?
We partially rely on external auditors and certifications but at some point I will visit every farm that supplies us, with cameras so we can show our customers exactly what they are buying.
What is one piece of advice you would give a customer who wants to become more ethical or sustainable in their everyday life?
The best thing we can do is also the hardest, always question your own belief systems and actively seek conflicting information for what you think you know. There is no plant or animal whose simple existence is either good or bad for the planet, the devil is in the details.
What are the goals for The Ethical Butcher in the coming year?
Our goal is simple, to be as regenerative as we can as a business which means running as a model of continuous improvement in all aspects of what we do.