What is Regenerative Farming?
Agriculture as an industry is a bit of a study in contradiction. For all of its reliance on land and the environment, the agriculture industry has some pretty brutal environmental consequences.
According to nationalgeographic.org, here are 3 ways that agricultural practices negatively impact the environment:
- Irrigation - it’s impossible to grow crops without water and sunlight. Although much of the world is in a drought cycle, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of human freshwater consumption, and this is expected to increase by at least 15 percent in the next 30 years.
- Livestock grazing - in the western United States alone, more land is used for livestock grazing than any other purpose. Much of this land is so overforaged that plants and grasses are unable to regenerate, which can affect the biodiversity of the land. When plants are unable to regenerate, the bare soil causes erosion and degeneration of topsoil due to runoff and depletion of nutrients. Entire ecosystems can be affected by this destructive cycle.
- Chemical fertilizers - the use of chemical fertilizers is rampant, because it has allowed the monoculture growth of in-demand crops such as wheat, corn, and rice by increasing production and yields. While these fertilizers provide the plants themselves with nutrients, their overuse has caused toxic buildup in soil as well as a presence in air, water, and rainfall.
These are just a few examples of how one of the world’s largest industries can negatively impact the environment. While agriculture is indispensable to humans, and its importance can’t be overstated, there IS a better way to do things so that this industry and the land that sustains it can coexist more harmoniously. Regenerative farming uses a harm-reduction approach, attempting to first curtail the use of harmful practices with the goal of creating a method of farming that works with the land rather than against it. Let's find out more about what is regenerative farming in the post below.
By focusing on several different factors, including replenishing biodiversity, water health and conservation, regenerating soil health, and rejuvenating plant species, regenerative agriculture aims to go beyond sustainability and conservation to actually leave the land better than it was found.
How Does Regenerative Farming Benefit Pasture Raised Chickens?
As we mentioned earlier, raising animals can take a lot out of the land, if proper regenerative agriculture practices aren’t followed. When land is overgrazed it can have devastating consequences on the surrounding ecosystem. At Pasturebird, we follow regenerative farming practices because we believe in the positive impact that it has on the environment, but following these principles also positively impacts our chickens as well.
One of the difficulties with raising any sort of animal, whether it’s livestock or poultry, is the risk of overgrazing. When animals are allowed to graze on pasture without proper attention being paid to allowing the pastureland to replenish itself, overgrazing can occur. Not only does overgrazing negatively affect the quality of topsoil, but when groundcover is obliterated, the elements (wind and rain) cause further erosion and degradation of the soil’s microbiome, which can make it difficult to grow anything, even if the land is left alone long enough for something to take root.
On the other hand, when regenerative farming practices are used, including allowing pasture to rejuvenate prior to being grazed again, the animals and the land are involved in a symbiotic relationship. The land feeds and nourishes the animals, and the animals in turn assist in the regeneration of the land. This article from Eco Farming Daily sums it up pretty well:
Livestock function as a walking composter; dispersing seeds, bringing biology and fertility back to soils that are otherwise poorly functioning.
While the article focuses on livestock, the same is true of chickens. As the chickens peck and forage on pasture, obtaining a varied and nutrient dense diet of insects, worms, grasses, nuts and seeds found naturally in the ground, they help the soil in turn both by naturally tilling it, and by leaving behind...ahem….fertilizer, if you will, in their wake. Because our chickens are moved to new pasture daily, allowing the ground to rest and rejuvenate in between grazing, the chicken poop acts as a natural compost, replenishing the nutrients in the soil that were used during grazing.
The Benefits of Pasture Raised Farming are Passed on to the Consumer, Too
The result of this regenerative farming practice is that when the chickens come back around to that portion of the pasture, it’s just as rich in nutrients and “natural chicken feed” as it was when they left it, and the cycle begins again. Allowing the soil to rejuvenate rather than become overgrazed and depleted benefits the soil, the chicken, and the farmer. Inadvertently, the use of regenerative farming to raise our chickens benefits the consumer as well. By raising healthier chickens, we are able to offer our consumers meat that is much more nutritious than conventionally-raised chicken.
As you’ve likely learned by following our blog, pasture raised chicken is three times higher in omega 3s, contains twenty one percent less saturated fat than conventionally raised chickens, and is fifty percent higher in essential vitamins like A, D, and E. You are what you eat and you are what you eat, eats. By allowing our chickens to graze the way chickens were meant to do means that what they eat makes them healthier, and their meat is more nutrient dense in turn. Modern convenience has brought with it so many benefits to our society, but where it has negatively affected us is our food. As a society, we’ve moved away from prioritizing healthy, locally grown and sustainably raised food, and have embraced convenience, and the lack of nutrition that often goes with it. We started Pasturebird in the hopes of turning that tide once again.
We hope that by virtue of small farms like ours following regenerative farming practices along with more consumers learning about the benefits of working with the land instead of against it, that regenerative farming will become more common and begin to replace conventional farming and the huge negative toll that it takes on the environment. Regenerative farming leads to happy birds, happy planet, and happy humans.