Regenerative Farming

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Whether you’re considering a plant-based diet or you’re wondering if there’s ANOTHER option to better, healthier farm practices – we need to talk about regenerative farming.

Never heard of regenerative farming or regenerative agriculture before?

Don’t worry – you’re not alone because most people think their options are only conventionally farmed produce and animal products, or organic.

But that’s NOT true.

So if you care deeply about the quality of the produce you eat AND the welfare of the animals raised for their products

And you’re concerned about the quality of the soil, avoiding chemicals sprayed on fields, the treatment and wages of the farmers involved…

Then I URGE you to consider regenerative farming as a better way forward that IS actually good for you and good for the planet.

I’ve touched on regenerative farming in my dairy series HERE, but my guest today is extremely knowledgeable on this.

She travels all over the world advocating for and lecture on the benefits of regenerative farming while inviting audiences to rethink the plant-based diet narratives that I too have become critical of.

Joining me is Diana Rodgers, RD, who is a “real food” nutritionist and sustainability advocate based near Boston, Massachusetts. She runs a clinical nutrition practice, hosts the Sustainable Dish Podcast, and speaks internationally about the intersection of optimal human nutrition, regenerative farming, and food justice. Diana is co-author of Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat and the director and producer of the companion film, Sacred Cow. Her nonprofit, the Global Food Justice Alliance, advocates for the inclusion of animal-sourced foods in dietary policies for a more nutritious, sustainable, and equitable worldwide food system.

I’m excited for you to hear this thought-provoking (and surprising) conversation!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In This Episode:

  • What is regenerative farming? (How is it different than organic?)
  • What are monocrops + why are they so destructive to the environment?
  • Why meat isn’t considered part of “clean eating”
  • Deceptive marketing tactics used by plant-based diet proponents (especially towards young women)
  • Nutrient deficiencies triggered by plant-based diet
  • What type of meat is MOST nutritious (based on farming method)
  • Tips to buy regenerative agriculture produce + meat affordably
  • What if you can’t find organic or grass-fed meat options?


“You want to have as many different species of life, both plant and animal, on a farm as possible because that makes more resilience” [24:10]

“If you add up the dairy and beef cattle, all the cows in North America, it is just about equivalent to the bison plus all the other ruminant animals that were here before we got rid of all those animals. So we don't have net more, we just have different animals.” [30:29]


Find Diana online | Instagram | Youtube

Check out the Sacred Cow site or go directly here to Buy the Book | Watch the Film

Healthy Skin Show 294: Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk: Which Is Better For You, Your Skin + The Planet? (PART 1)

Healthy Skin Show 295: Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk: Which Is Better For You, Your Skin + The Planet? (PART 2)

Healthy Skin Show 296: Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk: Which Is Better For You, Your Skin + The Planet? (PART 3)

Healthy Skin Show 281: Why Protein Intake Is So Important For Skin Health w/ Dr. Gabrielle Lyon

Healthy Skin Show 268: Plant-based Vs Carnivore Diet: What’s Best For Chronic Skin Issues?


324: Regenerative Farming vs Plant-Based Diet: What’s Best? w/ Diana Rogers, RD {FULL TRANSCRIPT}

Jennifer Fugo (00:03.659)

Diana, I am so excited to have you here on the Healthy Skin Show. Thank you so much for joining us!

Diana (00:12.13)

Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Fugo (00:14.203)

So I am actually really excited to talk to you because my journey down the rabbit hole of plant-based diet versus regenerative farming and regenerative agriculture, and the belief that we should have a diet that includes animals, or is a plant-based diet. This has become very controversial, and apparently eating meat is so controversial today. I thought you were one of the best people to help answer this question for listeners of how did we get here where meat is actually a controversial topic?

Diana (00:50.678)

Yeah, well, it's a long story, so I go into the topics of regenerative farming vs the plant-based diet movements in depth in my book, Sacred Cow, that I co-wrote with Robb Wolf. It started many, many years ago with Buddhism. And interestingly, it wasn't always part of Buddhism. Reincarnation wasn't always part of Buddhism. But once reincarnation became part of that religion, then eating an animal, like eating any animal, could be eating maybe your grandmother, and so that's when eating meat became taboo within Buddhism. In the United States it started largely with the Seventh-Day Adventist movement because they believed that eating meat, drinking tea and coffee, heavily spicing your foods, these were all ways to increase impure thoughts. And so in order to be most pure in your thinking, you should eliminate these foods.

And they even built these places called sanitariums, which were like half hospital, half health spa, that people would go to where they did things like got sunlight in these beautiful atriums, they exercised. That was like the beginning, sort of, of this idea of like jazzercise and movement just for the health reasons of it, not as sport.

They did all sorts of water treatments there, they ate a vegetarian diet. And a lot of people at the time did have gut problems because we didn't know about germ theory and we moved off farms, we were getting our meat from shops, the meat was sitting around longer and longer, and people were getting sick from eating spoiled meat. So eliminating meat from their diets actually improved their health. And so things like Kellogg's Corn Flakes were actually developed at these sanitariums as a health food.

Peanut butter also was designed during this movement. And so it was pushed as an idea of purity and it wasn't really something that was considered a movement for animal welfare, animal rights, until it began kind of at the turn of the century, and then got really much stronger, you know, in the 60s and 70s. And then lately it's exploded.

And it really, you know, like not a lot of meat eaters are really motivated to stop eating meat because of animal welfare reasons, somewhat because of health reasons, although a lot of people do just fine on eating meat, as you know. There have been some studies that talk about the dangers of eating meat, but those are largely observational studies that can't prove cause, and so it hasn't really taken off until these fake meat companies, these alt meat companies realized that carbon, that talking about the carbon footprint of your foods, was a way to eliminate animal agriculture. And so what they're doing is they're working with governments and with young people to really pound in this idea that we have to reduce our carbon footprint no matter what and that red meat, cattle, are one of the worst emitters possible of greenhouse gases. Therefore, we should not eat meat. And by the way, it's better for the animals’ lives, it's better for your health, and you can get by on our ultra-processed foods that coincidentally are going to make us a lot of money. And so there's a lot of investment in these in these companies and there's a lot of potential profit to be made in this brand new food category.

Diana (05:18.892)

And we discuss in the book Sacred Cow that this idea that carbon is really an issue that, I mean, certainly it's an issue, but it's not the only metric for evaluating whether or not a food is environmentally sustainable. And it's not healthier to eliminate meat by any means. And it's even questionable in the ethics category. So I really don't think that they can win on any of those pillars.

Jennifer Fugo (05:44.751)

I do remember too, this whole push for clean eating, which I remember it was back in like the, I would say mid-2000s or so, there was just so many documentaries that came out. It was like, did you see this? Did you see that? And the more that I saw those documentaries, I admit, I got pulled in, I got sucked in. I started to think too, we're eating too much protein. We need to eat a cleaner diet. This is good for the environment. I also feel like as I got deeper into my nutrition journey, I started as a health coach and then eventually went back for a master's in human nutrition and became a clinical nutritionist. You know, as a nutrition professional like yourself, we're exposed to so many different ways of eating.

And while I may have tried being vegan for like three weeks, it was a three-week failed attempt because I felt so bad. And I wasn't like one of the folks that are like, oh, I'm gonna eat vegan, and so they eat junk food, all the junk food versions. I literally ate like lentils and vegetables and all that jazz. I felt so awful after three weeks, I had to stop. So, you know, I think, like for you, you're coming at this from the perspective of having so much personal experience. Just for people listening who might be like, oh, she's biased against plant-based, have you actually ever given it a try to see what it's like at any point in your journey?

Diana (07:15.523)

So as somebody who had undiagnosed celiac disease until I was in my mid-20s, you know, I did  consider it in college, although I was so hungry all the time that I just never felt full. And so I did, I was like heavily plant-based. And I was eating things like deep-fried tofu when I would get my Chinese takeout and things like that. But I never fully went vegetarian or vegan because what I didn't realize is that I was malnourished. And at the time, before I was diagnosed, you could’ve put a full Thanksgiving plate in front of me at any time and I would have devoured the whole thing. I was just, you know, eating all the time because I was very underweight and starving basically.

Jennifer Fugo (08:04.071)

Yeah, and I can relate to that, not feeling full, feeling like blood sugar all over the place, very lightheaded, not feeling grounded even, in a sense, and a huge shift back to feeling more well, more energetic when I actually added back in meat. And at the time, and we've seen this interesting evolution of, you mentioned the purity of diet, but also like clean eating, hashtag clean eating, right? Has really, that sort of seemed to be at the beginning of this really strong push that we've seen in the plant-based movement.

Have you noticed that there seems, you said about the purity of diet, but did you also notice that the clean eating movement has morphed in a sense into this direction of no harm? We don't wanna eat any animals, we don't wanna do any harm. But I will save my opinions about this whole movement for a moment, and most people who've heard my dairy series already know it, but have you noticed that the clean eating movement really also moved in this direction? It did help push this desire to move away from animal-based foods.

Diana (09:20.082)

Yeah, we have a whole chapter in the beginning of the book Sacred Cow where we talk about meat as scapegoat. So meat, because it is such a powerful symbol of wealth and masculinity and death, and it's bloody and it's hard to obtain, you know, back in hunter-gatherer days, it is the most polarizing food and it has become now what they call like a pharmakon, something is good and evil at the same time. So some people see it as life-giving, other people see it as death, right? And so this movement that meat is barbaric, that it's brutal, that it is too masculine. You know, whenever I order a steak and I'm with a man at the table and maybe he ordered the fish or the scallops, they always bring me the fish or scallops. You know, it is very un-ladylike to order a steak, right? And, so women, you know, even starting in the 80s, it was the boneless, skinless chicken breast or the salad with, you know, light dressing.

Diana (10:31.798)

And the men got that big grilled steak kind of thing. And so meat is seen as dirty, not only in a purity sense, but also in that clean eating sense. So it's like spiritually and physically a dirty thing. And it really resonates a lot with young women, especially high school-age women. They're dealing with their periods for the first time. They're dealing much more so with you know, bodily fluids and things like that boys don't have to deal with. And so these propaganda images and films that come out are specifically targeted at adolescent girls. And that is the group that we really do not want to be giving up meat because it can really impact your fertility, your weight. It can be, you know, the beginning of eating disorders.

A lot of young women that I've worked with that were vegan or vegetarian felt guilty, sinful. They felt like they were eating body flesh, human flesh when they were eating meat. And you know, it really just has to do with our fear of death, with our disconnection from how food is produced, and with also our uncomfortableness with how animals are treated, with global warming, with human health. So many things that it's just easier to pin that all on a cow and literally make the cow the scapegoat for climate change, for failing human health, and for all the wrongs of society.

Jennifer Fugo (12:12.731)

Yeah, I will also say that while I, and most of you've again heard my dairy thing, I'll link it up in the show notes just so you can hear what my biases are for everybody listening in case you missed that. But, you know, I was of the opinion before I started doing research that the plant-based alternatives were processed and they were subpar to the animal-based alternatives, which are oftentimes like single ingredients or a very small number of ingredients compared to this like ingredient deck of something that has to have preservatives and emulsifiers and all sorts of things.

But it's interesting you mentioned about how there's this desire to do no harm, right, of purity, but the reality is when you actually dive into many of these plant-based alternatives, there is a lot of harm that nobody talks about, like with the cashew workers for harvesting cashews, with the monkeys who were actually being used as technically slave laborers to harvest coconuts in Thailand with certain companies. There's people who are in the oat industry that end up dying in the silos, all sorts of problems left and right, but nobody talks about any of that harm as if it doesn't matter. So can you share with us some issues that you've uncovered with some of the plant-based industries that they might not hear about in this conversation?

Diana (13:42.582)

Yeah, sure. I mean, there's nutrition, there's environment, and ethics. So there's those three pillars that they claim to be more pure on. Nutritionally, there's no winning. Animal-source foods are just more nutritious than fake versions of those animal-source foods. There's never been any firm evidence to show that meat causes cancer or heart disease, any of those things. Protein, especially from meat, has all the right micronutrients in all the right forms that our bodies need. So there's no arguing that.

When it comes to ethics, a lot of people will say, but I don't want to cause harm. And like you said, there's a lot of harm that comes. Especially in the farming of these gigantic monocrops. And a monocrop is like when you look across a gigantic picture like an Iowa field of corn or Kansas field of soybeans for all the eye can see. That is really, really bad for the environment. First of all, this was mostly grasslands that were formed from the roaming of bison. So they want to be grasslands full of different types of life. It's not just one species of grass in this area. There are different types of plants. There are different types of creatures that are living there. The biome of the soil is diverse and plentiful. Migrating birds have food for their journey south, right? When we convert that to a field of just one crop, we have to annihilate all the life that is there to begin with.

Diana (15:30.214)

And then in order for just the soybeans or just the corn to survive, we need to till up that land, plant the crop so that the tilling also releases tons of carbon and destroys the life under the soil. But then it's heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides to make sure that stuff doesn't grow, that you know only that corn or soy can grow. It eliminates the food for the migrating birds.

The Audubon Society has actually identified beef ranchers, cattle ranchers, as one of their major allies in saving the wild bird population because, you know on a pasture where cattle are grazing there's tons and tons of life. It's not like just one type of grass, there's all different types of grasses. There's butterflies, there's bees, there's all kinds of teeming insects and frogs and rivers and stuff like that.

Diana (16:30.188)

Regenerative farming looks very, very different than just a sea of one crop. And so really what I'm against is monocrop agriculture, which is the dominant ingredient for all of the fake meats, including the lab meats. So even though, you know, we think that in a lab when they're growing these muscle tissues, that it's like inventing something out of nothing, but they actually need food for this meat to grow and that is coming from monocrop agriculture that is highly destructive to ecosystems.

Jennifer Fugo (17:06.571)

So with the plant-based diet movement, are they really pushing toward farms having more variety of their crops? Because I don't hear that.

Diana (17:12.14)


Jennifer Fugo (17:15.347)

That's an important point. You were saying like all of these plant-based diet alternatives are many of them are based off of monocrops.

Diana (17:28.972)

Yeah, I mean, I can't pick one in my head that's not unless you're looking at a salad or something like that, right? You know, I mean, it's fine to eat vegetables along with, you know, grains if you tolerate them alongside your animal-source foods, but just eliminating animals does not mean you're increasing environmental health by any means at all.

Diana (17:59.648)

And you mentioned to me that your podcast is not super long. I mean, there are so many different nuanced topics. There's water usage, there's land use, there's greenhouse gas emissions, there's feed conversion rates. You know, people will say, oh, we can just eat those soybeans instead of eating meat and that therefore we're being, you know, more efficient. But it's not true at all. And then as far as like number of deaths, you know, one large cow, your average cow actually, produces about 450 pounds of meat. And if that's raised in a way that is giving back to the environment in a regenerative farming model, compare that to a burger patty that's made out of chemically sprayed soy product or corn product and the clear winner is that one life that gave 450 pounds of meat that can feed a family for a long time.

Jennifer Fugo (18:57.467)

Yeah, it's very interesting. This conversation, like you said, is complex. And that's one reason why I felt like it was important to have different perspectives to help listeners make the decision that's based on actual information, not the emotional. I would say it's emotional manipulation, through marketing when it comes to the plant-based diet side of things. And to this point, there's been a report that came out that, I believe, the shares of Beyond Meat are not doing very well. And the response from Beyond Meat is, well, we'll just have to shift our marketing.

Jennifer Fugo (19:39.899)

And so we have to pay attention to the things that these companies are saying because they know very well how to manipulate someone based off of an emotional feeling. They use fear, and push the ideas that “we want to be pure”, we're afraid of being dirty, we don't want to kill things, we don't want to feel bad. Look, I believe that it’s a serious challenge to make a logical, educated decision solely based off of fear, where the fear is generated in your amygdala. It is almost like a reptilian, old brain that does not respond the same way as it does to actual facts. You mentioned about monocropping, and I think most listeners, if they're familiar with that would be against that. I certainly am. What's the alternative that nobody seems to know about unless you have done a bunch of research like you have?

Diana (20:35.806)

Yeah, I mean, so smaller diversified farms, medium-sized farms, you know, I think we have too many gigantic corporate farms that are producing food in ways that are quite toxic for the environment. I spent 18 years living on an organic vegetable regenerative farm that also raised animals on pasture as part of our fertility cycle, like just to, you know, if you want healthy kale and carrots, you actually need animals inputs in order to, you know, you need poop and blood and bones from animals in order to grow healthy. I mean, most organic farmers, you have to get those nutrients somewhere so you can either get them from chemicals or you can get them from animals. And in order to have, you know, the healthiest, most diverse nutrient profile in our diets, we also have to include animals in our diet. There's lots of different animal foods that people you know, if they have a certain animal they don't want to eat, if they think cows look too much like dogs, they don't want to eat steak, they can eat fish. You know, that's fine. But we do need some level of animal source foods in our diet in order to be healthy and live to our genetic potential.

Jennifer Fugo (22:01.599)

And so for those who are not familiar with, because a lot of people are familiar with organic, what is regenerative farming? Because I feel like that's the thing that is not getting out there. And when I have oftentimes told clients, because they'll say, oh, I went plant-based because I saw a documentary, it's usually I saw a documentary. And I'm like, well, have you heard, I understand you don't wanna do harm, I get that, have you heard of regenerative farming? And they've never heard of it. So what is regenerative farming?

Diana (22:28.862)

Yeah. I mean, I have mixed feelings about that term “regenerative farming” because it is what farmers have been doing for a really long time. A lot of farmers anyway, not all farmers, but a lot of farmers before the invent of nitrogen-based fertilizers and things like that. So this idea that you're leaving the soil in better health than you came to it. So you're actually regenerating the soil through your food production.

It's getting a little co-opted right now, that term, by a lot of people that are using it as a marketing term. But basically, we talk about regenerative agriculture in both the book Sacred Cow as well as the film Sacred Cow, which is narrated by Nick Offerman and available on Amazon Prime and other streaming services. We show people what regenerative farming is and how it differs from conventional farming. So we interview conventional farmers that are doing cropping in the middle of the US and then what can happen when they go to a regenerative farming model. We actually show a farm that went regenerative and we visit many other farms like White Oak Pastures in Georgia. Will Harris is the farmer there and he's actually coming out with a book on October 10th 2023 that I just got a galley copy of today in the mail and I've done many workshops there.

Diana (24:09.682)

So the idea behind farms like White Oak Pastures, and there's many more, we feature several in our film, is that you want to have as many different species of life, both plant and animal, on a farm as possible because that makes the more resilience, the more different animals you have and plants you have, the healthier the ecosystem is. And so it involves a very specific way of grazing your animals where you're not over or undergrazing that land. You're grazing it in the proper density and intensity for what that land can handle at that time. Maybe it rained a lot, maybe it's a drought. You kind of have to adjust for all these different environmental factors. You have to use your brain and think. It's not just a robotic tractor situation. You also want to try to incorporate lots of other animals, lots of other plants, lots of human interaction as well. This is not, like I said, it's not a mechanized process.

It is a very hands-on process, very natural, and as a natural evolution of that also a very natural death, a very easy low-stress way of ending the life of those animals so that they can become leather and fertilizer and all the different things we use from those animals because less than half the animal actually is eaten. The rest is used in the leather industry, which in particular is suffering right now really badly because, cars like these electric cars are removing leather as an option because they want to be more environmental. But ironically, the leather was the most environmental piece of that car. It's the only natural thing of that car. So to use this plastic leather instead is actually the worst thing we can be doing.

Jennifer Fugo (26:08.435)

That I agree with you 100%. It's a shame that we're shifting over to so many plastics. And yet there's concern about all the, what is it, nanoplastics and little nanoparticles of plastic that's in the water and in the fish and in all, like the food supply and what that's doing to our health, yet we're comfortable putting it in everything around us, which is really interesting. You mentioned, and I think this is worthwhile to kind of go back to, you said that there's this concern that greenhouse gases, obviously, everybody's worried about greenhouse gases, and we blame the greenhouse gases, we blame cattle a lot for that. Is it really that big? I'm not saying that it doesn't have an impact because everything has an impact on something, but are the cattle really that big of an impact on the greenhouse gases and climate change as we're being told?

Diana (27:07.723)

No, is the short answer for that. So globally, greenhouse gases from cattle are about 5% of the total manmade greenhouse gases. But that's just looking at the emissions from cattle. So just the greenhouse gases coming out. But it doesn't account for this very natural cycle that nature has that once an animal emits methane or carbon, the environment actually re-uptakes that. So in the process of cattle, they’re chewing grass, which is carbon, through their digestive process, they emit methane through the bacteria in their rumen. After 10 years approximately, that methane oxidizes and becomes H2O, water, and CO2, carbon dioxide.

Diana (28:09.968)

So the CH4 breaks into H2O and CO2. So the H2O that is emitted becomes part of the water cycle. It's the clouds, it's the rain, all of that. The carbon dioxide then gets taken up by plants. That's what they need in order to grow. So you've got the CO2. The O2 gets released during photosynthesis. That's the oxygen we breathe. So when we're like, oh, we need trees, it's because they're absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen. The C, the carbon, becomes the leaves of the trees, the tree bark, the grass, the roots. And then also, the roots are leaking little carbon molecules to the bacteria underground, which the bacteria then eat and give the plant other nutrients it needs.

So it's this sort of symbiotic relationship that's happening underground. There's fungal networks involved too that are mining rocks for minerals that the plant needs in exchange for those carbon molecules. So up to about 40% of that carbon can actually get sequestered in the ground and that's how America's bread basket was actually, became so fertile. It was because the bison were roaming, were grazing, were pooping on the ground, and infusing it with all of this carbon that built up the soil to such a rich level that it is today. That is very different than fossil fuels, which by far are way bigger as far as the total emissions, but also the harm that the emissions generate from the carbon and methane that is sequestered deep in the Earth's core, pumped up, burnt, and then there isn't a natural reuptake cycle for this. So in the case of livestock, we don't have more methane-emitting animals in North America than we did in the 1500s before colonization and the elimination of bison.

Jennifer Fugo (30:22.996)


Diana (30:24.586)

Yes. We have, the beef cattle population right now, if you add up the dairy and beef cattle, all the cows in North America, it is about equivalent just about to the bison plus all the other ruminant animals that were here before we got rid of all those animals. So we don't have net more, we just have different animals. So people see cattle as unnatural, but it's like, we don't have bison anymore. And the cattle can actually perform the same ecosystem functions that bison did. We actually need grazing animals in order to have healthy grasslands because the grasslands, anyone with grass in their front yard knows that it needs to be cut, right? So you can either use a fossil fuel or electric, but then how's that powered, mower to mow down grasslands and grasses in your yard, or you can have a grazing animal that is actually converting those grasses into protein, which is the most direct way to do it. You don't have to grow a soybean with lots of chemicals and then bring it to a factory and turn that into a Beyond Burger or ferment that into some kind of bizarre protein sci-fi puck.

Jennifer Fugo (31:39.243)

Like Frankenmeat, literally… it's like a Frankenmeat. I remember like talking about Frankenmeats back in like 2010 and I'm like, we literally have that now, meat grown in a lab, which I think is strange. And maybe that's a bias that I have. I don't know if I could eat that, but what are your thoughts on that topic of lab-grown meat? I know that it's been approved for some use to some degree. Do you think this is going to be a thing?

Diana (32:09.694)

Yeah, the lab meat currently has been approved for use in food service. And conveniently, food for food service doesn't have to have a nutri-facts label on it. So they don't have to show all the nutrition information on that item. There was a study that came out of UC Davis that showed that lab meat is probably five to 25 times higher in carbon emissions than real meat. It's also incredibly expensive and not really scalable.

So you need, first of all you have to grow this monocrop or whatever it's going to be that is the fuel for making this meat. You need very expensive buildings, all of the lighting, all of the temperature control. You need lots of antibiotics because if you're if you're creating an environment that's perfect for growing muscle tissue it's also perfect for growing lots of pathogens, so you need a lot of antibiotics, which is already a huge problem in our food system, is antibiotic resistance.

Diana (33:31.958)

The energy requirements to turn all of this into meat versus a cow on grass using free solar energy and free rainwater to produce the most nutrient-dense food for humans, there's no comparison at all. Meat wins environmentally. It wins on energy usage. And it certainly can be done in a great way. And that’s where the regenerative farming comes in.

Jennifer Fugo (34:03.659)

Yeah, and in terms of just, I think we should, this would be fair to say for those who feel like they can get a similar nutrient density from a more plant-based diet, like what are some of, like that you could just get from animal products or even just cattle if we just wanna talk about that in this instance. What's the difference nutrient density-wise between a more plant-based diet version versus the animal-based version?

Diana (34:34.066)

I mean, in every case where there is a nutrient that's available in plants and animals, our body prefers the animal version of that nutrient. So beta-carotene versus retin-A is a good example. Beta-carotene is what makes oranges orange or sweet potatoes orange. And that is the precursor to vitamin A, which is retinol, which we need for eyesight and skin health and things like this. In the animal form, it's present in animal fats and we can directly use that nutrient. About half of all people can't easily make the conversion from beta-carotene to retinol. And so right there, about half of all people are just not going to do well if they eliminate real vitamin A from their diet.

B12 is another nutrient that deficiencies can cause permanent brain damage, major mental illness, and it is a nutrient that is not at all found in plants. There are some fake versions of that in some algaes and things like that but there is no real version of B12 that we see in the plant world. One small serving of steak gives you a hundred percent of your B12 and so you know that's something that I'm really passionate about because we have seen babies die from B12 deficiency.

Iron, again, is another one. So we have heme iron available in meat. We have non-heme iron in plants like spinach. You would also have to eat about 12 bowls of spinach to get the iron that you can get in a small piece of like a chicken liver or something like that. And we know that iron and B12 deficiencies, vitamin A, zinc, most vitamin deficiencies worldwide, the most common ones are solved by animal-source foods. And again it doesn't need to be red meat if someone is opposed for whatever reason, they don't like the taste. They can they can easily get this from eating some bivalves, some oysters in particular are really healthy. So getting some seafood in your diet, some eggs, some cheese, like if that is your preference that would work too. But certainly eliminating all of it is going to just cause major health problems.

Jennifer Fugo (37:04.511)

Yeah, one interesting fact I learned recently because I've been doing a lot of research on H. pylori, which is sort of an aside, but we know with H. pylori a lot of times it will decrease stomach acid. And what was fascinating in terms of iron is that when you do not have sufficient stomach acid, which I also find, at least a lot of folks who come to my practice who are eating a more plant-based diet. A lot of times they do not have sufficient stomach acid, where they actually have H. pylori or something else going on. But if you don't have sufficient stomach acid, you have a much more difficult time actually doing the conversions you need to with the non-heme iron in plants to make it usable for our body. And so that's another, you know, important thing to consider that animals do make it, it's like literally, as you said, it's in the form we need in order to do what we need it to do, which is so important.

Diana (37:58.059)

Yeah, and I would add too that comment about vegetarians not having as much stomach acid. So we need stomach acid to digest meat. And when people pull meat out of their diet, they tend to also just stop making as much stomach acid. And so a lot of times when you hear somebody say, “well, I was vegetarian for eight years, and then I had a burger and it made me feel so sick and therefore I knew that I shouldn't have eaten that.” And it's really just because they don't have the stomach acid to digest that meat.

So as part of my course, I have a course called Sustainavore that people can learn sustainable eating, I have a diet plan and also talk about all these issues in depth. And I have a little side in there for folks that have been vegan or vegetarian, want to start eating meat again and want to know what supplements to take. But basically, you need some HCL added to your diet, some betaine, and maybe some digestive enzymes too, to just help break down that meat in the beginning so that it doesn't make you feel bad, but also so that you can access all the nutrients in that meat.

Jennifer Fugo (39:13.599)

Well, I have one more question for you. And I think this is a good one. I recognize that everybody has different financial means. And so I've seen a lot of information. Actually, you posted about this on Instagram, and I feel like it became very, it was a little bit of an argument between people who were saying, “well, if you can't eat organic, then beef is bad for you.” But I'm sort of the mindset that I think the all-or-nothing is not really helping serve people. So you've done a lot of research, you know a ton about this, I'm sure if you have a choice, you're gonna probably go towards something that's organic, grass-fed, all of those, they check all the boxes. But what about the person who can't afford that or can't find it locally, or maybe you're traveling and you're in an area where that's just not what anyone prioritizes, what's your thoughts on that more conventional version of beef?

Diana (40:19.026)

Yeah, so I get this question all the time and I'm really glad you brought it up. Even the beef at grocery stores is full of B12 of iron and a good source of protein. And honestly, feedlot-finished beef is actually upcycling a lot of food waste we have in our food system. So just to give a quick example, for every pound of plant-based protein that we have, there are four pounds of waste from that. Imagine the soybean plant, right? To extract just the protein from that soy, you have the seed pod, the stems, all this other fibrous material left over that can either sit in a pile and emit greenhouse gases while it composts down, or we can feed it to cattle on a feedlot and watch them turn that into meat. So cattle and other ruminant animals uniquely, so not pigs and chickens who are monogastric, but ruminant animals, cows and sheep, can convert food we can't digest into protein.

And for a lot of complex reasons too, what they eat matters a little bit less to the nutrient profile of their meat than in pigs and chickens because they're monogastric animals and the molecules are sort of going directly into them, versus the ruminant process and the bacteria actually digesting that plant material for them and then the cattle living off like the byproducts of the bacteria basically.

Diana (41:59.28)

Anyway, so I have no problem if somebody just eats real food and then buy the best meat that you can afford. Support the meat that meets your ethics the best. But if it's just a sirloin steak or something of whatever steak that you're getting from the grocery store, I would still say that steak is more nutritious than chicken or pork. It's about 30% more nutritious than chicken, has less omega-6 than chicken by a lot. And so it's one of the best. Seafood is really expensive, and actually Beyond Meat is twice as expensive as organic grass-fed beef, if you look at it at a per pound serving. So beef is a great affordable, sustainable nutrition source.

Jennifer Fugo (42:59.183)

I appreciate you sharing all this. I know that for some, like you said, we're giving you options. You don't have to do beef. And some people actually have an allergy to beef, so it is what it is, or they have the alpha-gal allergy and they may have to look elsewhere for their protein needs. But I do think that, first of all, I agree with you, this conversation could be hours and hours long because it is complicated. And I really appreciate the fact that you've approached this topic without the fear oftentimes attached to it so that everybody can make the best decision for themself without that judgment of like, “if you can't eat the best, then forget about it”, right? That tends to be the message. And it's a shame because there are people who legitimately cannot afford or can't locally find maybe the meat from regenerative farming model or organic meat or grass-fed or whatever, and what about them?

Diana (43:40.957)


Jennifer Fugo (43:55.699)

And I think your message really brings people into the conversation. So anyway, I just wanted to remind everybody you have this book called Sacred Cow, which is available like everywhere. And it's an excellent book, so if you wanna dive deeper into that. And you also have, you said there's a documentary for this as well?

Diana (44:15.83)

Yes, it's not exactly like the book. It's more story-based. So we actually visit farms. We go to Mexico. We go to Belgium, it's a really fun film. And like I said, it's narrated by Nick Offerman, who is a huge advocate for all of this work. So it was really great to work with him for that. And then, if folks wanna learn all this stuff through a course, I have Sustainavore, which is available on my website. So they can find all this information at And then if they're really motivated to join my cause, I have a nonprofit called The Global Food Justice Alliance where I actually try to help educate and increase access to animal source foods for people who are food insecure.

Jennifer Fugo (45:02.155)

Well, thank you so much, Diana, for being here. I really appreciate it. I know we were trying for a long while to make this happen, and I am just so grateful that it worked out, and I appreciate you sharing everything that you have researched on regenerative farming with my audience today.

Diana (45:17.258)

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Regenerative Farming