We often get asked if the farmers who supply us practice regenerative agriculture.
To be clear, we love the principles behind regenerative grazing – a holistic approach of proactively improving a farm ecosystem by putting emphasis on soil health and using tactics like intensive grazing.
Having said that, we don’t, and probably never will, claim OBE Organic beef is based on a certified regenerative grazing standard. Here’s why.
We’re certified organic. The main reason we don’t claim to be practicing regenerative grazing is our supply chain is already certified organic. Organic agriculture is not the same as regenerative agriculture – organic agriculture has a larger emphasis on prohibiting synthetic inputs like chemicals, antibiotics, and GMOs – but both have as their starting point a philosophy of working with nature and caring for the soil as the building block. The main difference is organic agriculture is certified against robust and well-known standards, whereas regenerative agriculture currently is not, to the best of our knowledge. Our graziers are independently audited by a third part every year to ensure they are complying with strict organic standards.
You can learn more about organic agriculture, and the standards by which it is managed, here.
We’ve pretty much been doing it naturally. If you look at the most common definition of regenerative grazing, most of our graziers – especially in the really big properties in the Lake Eyre Basin – have been virtually ‘regenerative’ forever. The core tactic of regenerative grazing is to have cattle in large herds and move them around frequently to mimic the herds of the African savannah – in so doing, they eat in a confined space, trample dung and urine into the soil, move on when feed has been eaten, and return to the same spot weeks or months later when the feed (and soil) has regenerated. This may be logical for the farms most of us see when we’re driving around the countryside, but for a lot of OBE Organic’s graziers in the Australian outback, their farms are up to 400,000 hectares and they have virtually no fences. So cattle form herds naturally, and roam naturally across the land to follow the feed – just like the migratory animals of the savannah do, and which regenerative grazing encourages farmers to mimic. We don’t claim this is regenerative … but you can see how the result is pretty similar.
What’s in a name? In the absence of well-defined standards, ‘regenerative’ is quickly becoming a term like ‘natural’ that covers a heap of stuff. In many, but not all, cases, regenerative grazing principles are really best practice grazing principles. And we don’t mind what you call it, as long as graziers look after their soil and seek to work with nature to run a productive business.