As soon as “regenerative agriculture” became trendy, it was only a matter of time until someone used it as a food label. Savory Institute launched its Land to Market Ecological Outcome Verification. It’s meant to “measure the land as a living system,” and focuses on soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function.
And we now know that Epic’s Beef-Barbacoa Inspired Bar will be the first product to display the EOV label. According to Epic, “the beef in this product was raised using regenerative farming practices that improve soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function.” Unsurprisingly, consumers can find the bar online and at Whole Foods.
Honestly, this is such an eye roll. When the term regenerative agriculture started popping up in sustainability discussions, I knew where it was headed. It’s simply virtue signaling; consumers feel good buying it and big brands feel good displaying it. But it doesn’t really mean anything.
Farmers are already concerned about soil health, biodiversity, and local ecosystems. In fact, when it comes to soil health, I’d go so far as to say farmers are obsessed with it! So if there are new techniques and production methods that will bolster these things on our farms, we’re already doing it.
And that’s why I’m so skeptical of yet another verification label. It isn’t really telling us anything. It just creates divisions within the industry, and it alludes to some farmers not being sustainable. That’s hardly fair.
Every farm is different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to any of this. And the best person to evaluate what works and what doesn’t is the farmer who is intimately knowledgeable with that farm. And then farmers work with experts, like agronomists, to take advantage of that knowledge.
Now that isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t care about the environment. And it doesn’t mean consumers are out of luck if they want to know that their food is grown sustainably. But that isn’t what this label tells them. It just makes them think that’s what it means.
The problem is that activist groups, bad food labels, and misleading headlines have separated those who eat from farmers. We fix it by reestablishing trust. Because I believe that when consumers learn about modern agriculture, they’ll appreciate that farmers share their desire for more sustainable lifestyles.
And that’s better than a virtue-signaling label.