WHAT YOU KNOW.
AND WHO YOU KNOW.
We build lasting partnerships with brands so we can scale landscape wide impact across a network of GrassRoots farms.
THIS IS IMPORTANT.
In the words of Wendell Berry, "how you eat determines how the world is used".
By sourcing from GrassRoots or farms like ours, you're enabling landscapes to be restored. This benefits all of us and our future generations.
If you choose to source from farms with systems that degrade the environment then do so knowing the consequences cannot be sidestepped.
You and only you are behind the food choices you make. You determine how the world is used. It's a position of power, use it for good.
MORE THAN FARMING.
We’re a business with strong ethics and principles, founded on the overarching belief that if we keep on with the same models we’ll end up with the same consequences that ultimately impact us all.
For us it is no longer a case of who can negotiate hardest, who can win, or out of sight out of mind.
Our principles of integrity, fairness, compassion and humility underpin all the relationships we have. Be the change you want to see. Gone are the Mad Men days.
We love questions. We love challenge. It's the first step to change.
Isn't all beef & lamb bad?
No. Ruminants (animals that eat mainly grass) are really, REALLY important in maintaining healthy ecosystems. And where an ecosystem has been degraded, i.e. the soil has lost its fertility and biological diversity, they can be brought in to regenerate it through grazing.
The relationship between soil health and ruminants has developed over millennia, long before homo-sapiens arrived on the scene. The idea that we can control nature sustainably whilst removing one of it’s key tools is frankly arrogant and absurd. Ruminants are essential, they just need to be managed in the right way.
What environmental things are the farms improving?
Our farms each have a bespoke plan which they co-design with experts, to improve or maintain at the highest possible standard:
biodiversity (soil, plants, insects and mammals)
family, workers and community
How is your way of farming different?
Most industries have developed to become extractive. That means they take the planet’s resources and turn them into products without replacing what they’ve taken.
Predictably that’s an escalator with a clear end-point and steep drop-off. The planet, our soils and rivers, are becoming exhausted by extractive farming. We have taken all the nutrition from the soil without giving back.
We farm to turn the tide. We choose farming methods that mimic the way nature behaves; to give back and regenerate the health of our ecosystems, returning them to their former glory.
What sorts of things do your farmers do that are different?
Our farmers adopt practices that are known to improve ecosystem health, whilst monitoring their progress.
They do such things as:
Feeding animals mainly pasture and forage produced on the farm or in the local area, not imported soya.
Managing their animals as herds, moving them regularly to fresh feed as nature intended.
Improving soil health through diverse plants to wean their farms off the use of artificial fertilisers and chemicals
Creating new habitat and leaving wild spaces for nature.
And many more. A farm visit is the best way to find out!
What’s the problem with how we’ve been doing things?
To date, different parts of the supply-chain from field to fork have negotiated hard to maximise their profits. This often means that profit ends up with those with the most power in the chain. This exposes risks in the form of degraded natural capital. Those with the power to change and reverse the trend are left with neither the money nor confidence needed to do so.
At the end of the day, we all need each other to get amazing food on plates. And ultimately we all need healthy soils, clean rivers and thriving biodiversity so our children can grow up in a world that can sustain them. It’s just often we forget this bigger picture.
What breeds of beef do you farm?
Our animals are predominantly a cross between a dairy cow and a native beef breed, such as an Angus or Hereford. This means we’re providing a purpose and life for otherwise unwanted dairy calves. It also means minimising the environmental footprint of our food, because their mother is also producing nutritious milk for human consumption.
We believe the way the animal is reared, treated, fed, slaughtered, hung and butchered plays a more important role in producing delicious beef, than the breed per-se. We aim for similar systems to provide a nutritious beef with a consistently tasty eating experience.
What breeds of lamb do you use?
Our farmers tend to use self-replacing breeds that suit their specific farm environment and can produce healthy lambs which thrive on a diet of pasture and forage. Self replacing means the farmer can keep some of their female lambs to breed from developing a type of sheep which thrives on their farm.
Lambs are born outside in March to May and graze for all of their life. Care is taken to operate similar natural systems to provide a nutritious, consistently tasty meat while also providing an environmental benefit.
What do the animals eat?
Ruminant livestock are designed to eat plants, which normally means grass, herbs and legumes. The more diverse the diet the better it is for the animals and also for the soil, insects and mammals on the farm. The animals may also eat brassicas, such as turnips, radish or kale along with other green plants, particularly during the cold winters when pastures stop growing.
The farms also work with the local community to form circular economies where animals may eat forage or grains which would otherwise be wasted (such as brewers grains). For each farm this requires a context check to ensure this practise fits with their ambitions and will ultimately provide a benefit to all natural functions we monitor.
Where in the country are your farms?
Our farms are all UK farms. We have a hub in the midlands and south east who all deliver into an abattoir in Gloucestershire. And we are developing a hub in Yorkshire.
The mission of GrassRoots is to Change the landscape of British Farming and therefore we are developing a network of farms across the UK. Each one joins us at a different point on the path to regenerating their natural ecosystem. Each one has unique challenges, soils and climate. But that’s what makes the food we produce unique and the journey worthwhile.
Who checks all these claims you’re making? Can we trust you?
It’s a good question, because we see a lot of Greenwashing in industry and want to stand against that. We also see businesses monetising the climate crisis whilst not being a genuine force for change.
All our farms are independently accredited by an international third-party audit body that holds us to account. They read each farm’s regenerative plan and ask us to stretch further in some areas before they approve it. Then they carry out annual audits and inspections to monitor progress against the plan. As a result all our farms are Certified Regenerative at arms length to us.
When people talk about carbon and soil and farming, what’s the deal?
This is a big question that has a long answer. But in short, the soil is the biggest store of carbon on the planet. How farmers use that soil affects whether there is a net loss or gain of carbon in their soil. Do all the right things and plants suck loads of carbon out of the air (photosynthesis) and the soil stores it. Do the wrong things and the soil releases lots of carbon back into the atmosphere.
Our farmers do more of the right things and less of the wrong things. Integrating livestock into a circular farm system is the right thing. And the outcomes, in terms of net carbon capture, can be significant.
How does the way you farm improve water quality and river health?
Farming starts with the soil. In fact all life starts with the soil when you think about it. And healthy soil should be like a bath sponge. Poor on water and it absorbs and stores it without running out the bottom or off the top. When it rains, healthy soil absorbs water and stores it. This prevents it from running straight into rivers and taking soil and fertilisers and chemicals and nutrients with it. It helps prevent flash floods downstream.
Soil Organic Matter (the part responsible for its water holding capacity) and Soil Structure (responsible for water infiltration rate) can be improved if farmers do certain things, like using a diverse range of plants with different rooting depths to increase infiltration, and not disturbing the soil which reduces Soil Organic Matter.
Are you organic? What’s the difference?
We are not organic. Organic is great and we don’t want to knock it. But whereas organic instructs farms what not to do (i.e. don’t apply fertilisers and sprays) we instruct farms what to do and ask them to commit to always seeking to improve their natural environment.
There is a lot of overlap. But our farms are also on a much broader mission to actually improve and regenerate their farm health through active interventions covering the six pillars of soil, water, air, biodiversity, animals and people.
How does this translate to taste?
Wine is famous around the world for taking on the flavour of its soil. It’s called terrior which translates from French literally into soil or land. But this is not unique to wine. Veggies grown in your no-dig allotment taste radically different from packaged veggies shipped in from glasshouses in other countries. Healthy soils and landscapes impart flavour.
Our beef and lamb come from animals grazing fresh pastures of grass, mixed herbal leys and other forages. Green leafy plants rooted in thriving soils and fresh water. In these natural environments, the animals grow at their own pace, naturally, and the meat takes on flavours our grandparents would recognise.
How does this translate to nutrition?
Michael Polan famously said “you are what you eat, eats”. In other words, the diet of the animal you’re eating matters.
We won’t pretend to understand all the science behind this (we’re simple farmers), but the research tells us that grass-fed beef and lamb has a much healthier balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. An imbalance is linked to a number of degenerative diseases.
Moreover it contains much higher level of available vitamin A and vitamin E, both of which are essential to human health.
What is Regenerative Farming?
There is a paradigm in environmentalism moving from degenerative (getting worse) to sustainable (staying the same) to regenerative (getting better).
Regenerative farming is therefore farming in a way that improves the farm environment. We’re using techniques to build back healthy soils, thriving biodiversity and clean water. Not merely keep it at the level we found it and stop it getting any worse.
This starts with an admission that somewhere along the way we made mistakes and got things wrong. And now’s our chance to put things right.
How does the new supply chain work?
Simple, we sit down in a room with everyone who has a role in bringing an animal from birth to fork, and work out how to do it better!
As farmers we are very aware of the current disconnect between us and the people who eat our food, it benefits no one and is negative for progress and mental health.
Customers can have a positive impact (at scale) by forming direct relationships though GRF and providing much needed feedback to our farmers. This gives them the confidence to change and pride in the care they are taking to produce our food and steward our landscapes.