Regenerative Ruminants: nature's land stewards

August 10, 2017 by David Leffler posted on Land + Livestock, Defending Meat

Over the past few centuries, human development has advanced at the speed of light. Thanks to events like the industrial revolution and the emergence of modern technology, we’re more globally connected and advanced than ever before. This progress has brought about countless positives, but it’s also created more mechanized food systems—one area where efficiency and mass production leave little consideration for land health or climate change. Luckily, the key to healing damaged lands has been under our noses this whole time: ruminants.

Let’s take a closer look. By definition, a ruminant is an animal that acquires nutrients from plants by fermenting them in specialized compartments of their stomachs prior to digestion. In other words, their stomach has several—four, to be exact—chambers that allow them to maximize their nutritional intake when eating stuff like grass or hay. The key here is what happens afterwards: thanks to special microbial actions in their digestive tract, these animals produce incredibly powerful fertilizer. This gives them a unique symbiotic relationship with the lands they graze: essentially, they can help regrow the grasses they eat to ensure the entire system continues running smoothly. And thanks to the growing influence of regenerative agriculture, they can actually repair damaged lands.

But enough with the generalizations. Here’s a close-up look at the extraordinary ruminants EPIC sources for its products and why they’re so crucial to our regenerative agriculture mission:

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CATTLE

Dating back thousands of years, cattle have long been fixtures in nearly every agrarian civilization. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that it is one of the animals that EPIC utilizes most. They are also a model for our entire business, as our cattle sourcing is among the most high-quality of any animal supplies we engage with. Similar to our pigs, EPIC’s cows are key drivers in our Whole Animal Project and directly fuel products that make use of their muscle meat, trim, fat, bones, and organs!

Every single EPIC cow is 100% grass fed. We're working tirelessly to reach our next landmark: ensuring all our cattle are holistically managed by family ranchers conscious of how land management and animal impact have lasting effects on future generations. They truly are the model ruminant and deserve to be treated as such.

 

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BISON

The bison has been one of EPIC’s most beloved animals since we were founded.  Currently, we source from a select small network of ranches for our grass-fed bison products.  These suppliers raise their 100% grass-fed bison on pasture year-round and without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. These are all ideal treatment practices.

While we’ve since realized the supply of grass-fed bison is extremely low in the United States, we’ve made improving their treatment and living standards one of EPIC’s top priorities. Frankly, we believe honoring and reviving America’s National Mammal that isn’t just a goal—it’s our job.

 

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LAMB

People rarely realize how powerful these little guys can be. Don’t let their white fleeces fool you: they’re tough, strong, and vital ruminant animals. That’s why every EPIC lamb is 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, and managed to maximize their land impact abilities. No animal deserves to live in a cage—especially one that’s as impressive as it is cute.

 

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DEER

There’s nothing more picturesque than seeing a herd of deer running through a pasture. It’s that much prettier when you realize they’re simultaneously aerating the soil with their hooves and fertilizing it with their droppings. If that’s not poetry in motion, we’re not sure what is.

Deer are the new kids on the block with EPIC, but venison meat is quickly becoming one of our most popular protein sources—and for good reason. It’s lean, protein-dense, and 100% grass-fed meat. Furthermore, all our deer are raised on open pastures and are able to wander and graze freely. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

 

Unfortunately, these animals’ abilities have been largely interrupted by modern, mechanized food production. Rather than grazing as nature intended, many of them have been placed in inhumane, mass production feedlots. This has a multi-pronged impact on both the animals and the land. For one, they (typically cows) are unable to graze or move around and typically are not grass-fed. This prevents them from consuming their natural diet and aerating soils with their hooves, which stimulates plant growth and improve land health. Furthermore, they’re unable to fertilize their pastures as intended—which is a major blow to our planet and their quality of life.

We can do better. The truth is, these animals have the ability to regenerate our lands, heal our soils, and combat climate change—and hindering them from doing so is nothing short of irresponsible. So let’s celebrate these incredible animals and help them work their ruminant magic. It’s what they were put on this earth to do.