773: How Our Food System Has Become Centralized and Industrialized (& How to Change It) With Brett Ender & Harry Gray

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How Our Food System Has Become Centralized and Industrialized (& How to Change It) with Brett Ender & Harry
Wellness Mama » Episode » 773: How Our Food System Has Become Centralized and Industrialized (& How to Change It) With Brett Ender & Harry Gray
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773: How Our Food System Has Become Centralized and Industrialized (& How to Change It) With Brett Ender & Harry Gray

In today’s episode, I’m back with Brett and Harry, hosts of the Meat Mafia podcast and founders of Noble Origins, an animal-based, extremely nutrient-dense protein powder I recently got to try and now keep stocked in my house.

We go deep into some of the system-level issues with our food supply, how it’s become so centralized, and agricultural and farming practices that have shifted our food supply and health over the last few decades. They provide some really actionable tips and resources you can do to take action to create better health within your own family.

I really learned a lot in this episode, and I hope you do too.

Episode Highlights With Brett and Harry

  • How the industrialization of food changed human nutrition
  • The biggest changes to the food supply in the last few decades and how they are impacting our health
  • One thing sprayed on most grocery store chicken that you might not realize
  • The real problems for animals and humans with factory farming and how to make better choices
  • 80% of meat in the grocery store is controlled by four major companies
  • Is regenerative agriculture scaleable?
  • How we can help change the trend with our own food choices
  • How more protein and healthy food can actually be a beauty secret as well
  • The benefit of cooking just 3 more meals at home each week
  • Simple food choices that can make a big health difference

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and I am back with the Meat Mafia guys, Brett and Harry, to tackle another aspect of some of the problems that are creating health issues in our world and in our food supply, and especially how our food system has become more and more centralized and industrialized and how to change it, at least for your own family. And you might’ve heard the first episode with Brett and Harry, who have, they’re the podcast hosts of the Meat Mafia podcast, as well as the founders of Noble Origins, which is a protein I got to try not very long ago, and which I now keep stocked in my house because it’s extremely nutrient dense, it’s animal-based, and it helps me get a lot of the things that I try to include in my diet in an extremely easy to consume format, and my kids love it. But in this episode, we talk about some of the system-level issues with our food supply, how it’s become so centralized, all of the things that go into the agricultural and farming practices that have shifted in our food supply and in our human health over the last few decades. And they provide some really actionable tips and resources for shifting those things, at least within your own family. I really enjoyed this conversation. There’s a lot more links in the show notes to resources as follow-up to that. You can check that out at wellnessmama.com. But let’s join Brett and Harry. Harry and Brett, welcome back. Thanks for being here again.

Harry: Thanks for having us. We really appreciate it.

Brett: Part two. We’re excited.

Katie: Well, in our first episode, which I’ll link to in the show notes, we got to go deep on the metabolic health crisis and some really actionable ways we can improve our health on a personal level with some simple choices. And in this episode, I would love to kind of go deeper on the system side of this and how much our food supply has changed in the last few decades and how this is contributing to the problem. And also, most importantly, how we can change this at a grassroots level in our own families. So to jump in, can you guys kind of walk us through what are some of the problems and big changes that we are seeing in the food system that are contributing to our health problems?

Harry: Hmm. Yeah. I think the right place to start is kind of framing it through this idea of the industrialization of food and what that, what does that actually mean? And for me, I view the industrialization of food as more and more layers of processing that goes into creating food. You know, there’s a certain way of raising food that I think regenerative farmers and people who are really trying to limit the amount of inputs that go into raising high-quality food really understand. And on the front end, that requires very few inputs. So they’re not using chemicals. They’re using multiple species to create a system that can sustain itself without those chemicals. And on the back end, it really is processing the food in a way where the animals are really just have one bad day and they’re living a life where when they’re slaughtering happens, it’s a process that’s not stressful for the animal. And they’re not there are no additives on the back end in terms of spraying these foods with nitrates and other, other things. Like, I think a fact that most people don’t really realize is that most grocery store chicken or all grocery store chicken is sprayed with sprayed with chlorine before it’s packaged and processed. So this idea of processing our foods to the point where we have to either load it up with chemicals on the front end or load it up with chemicals on the back end, I think is really kind of like encompasses this whole idea of the industrialization of food.

And then you look at how the animals actually live, which is the time period in between those two things. And this is kind of like the most important part, where are these animals living lives that they would have otherwise been living if they weren’t on a farm. And so I think just trying to live in line these create life for these animals on these farms where they’re living in line with nature is really important. So they have adequate space. They’re getting adequate sunlight. They’re eating a species-appropriate diet. Like all of these things play a factor in our own health like as individuals, but also these animals’ health. Like if these animals are healthy, then we are going to be healthy.

And so I think when you look back at the food system, there’s a number of periods of time where things started to shift. You look at the processing of food started to change as we started to get into the 1800s and 1900s, we started to pasteurize milk. And then we started to use more and more chemical fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides in the early 1900s. And then post-World War II is like the real turning point where we have all these underutilized factories. We have an oversupply of ammonia fertilizer, which we then use to spread on our fields and create an abundance on this amazing asset that we have in the US, which is the fertile soil that we had in the Midwest and all over the country, really. But we started using this fertilizer that led to us starting to get into GMOs and herbicides and pesticides. And we’ve sort of created this process where we have a very linear approach, a very mechanistic approach to nature. And anyone who understands biology and nature knows that it’s very interwoven. There’s multiple co-factors and relationships that support each other to create health and diversity. And now we’ve basically pulled all these pieces apart and started to support them with chemicals and processes that ultimately have created a lot of the problems that we’re seeing today in terms of food just really not being all that nutritious for people.

Brett: Yeah, we kind of made the shift away from this localized food system of rancher, farmer, processor, customer. It was kind of this like beautiful triad where you were shopping and purchasing and had a local relationship with your farmer rancher who had a local relationship with their processor. And it was this amazing flywheel effect where you were only buying real foods from the specific person that was actually growing and procuring your food for you. And then as you look over time, it’s like we’ve really incentivized farms to get as big as possible. And then we’ve also broken the back of our small farmer. You know, thousands of different farms are crippled with debt. They’re closing, they’re shutting down shop every single year if they can’t find a child or grandchild or even a purchaser of that farm.

And then when you look at the beef industry in general. I know in part one, we talked about the monopolization of the processed food supply, but our beef industry in general is also at the hands of like four corporate packers that have immense monopolization. And the statistic is that 85% of all your meat in your local grocery store is actually controlled by four corporate packers. You know, a lot of them having operations in Brazil, Mexico, overseas. And there have been such interesting things that have happened with food legislation and regulation where a rancher can actually, one of these packers can actually slaughter, raise and slaughter cattle in Brazil, ship it over to the US. And as long as apply a sticker onto or a package onto the meat, they can label it as a product of the USA. So here you are at Whole Foods, you’re paying more because you think you’re getting this product that’s labeled as local Texas beef when really that animal was a product of Brazil that was just shipped over here and you’re buying it. So the small rancher is getting hurt because they’re not cut into the process. And then you as the consumer are overpaying for lower quality beef.

So there’s just a lot of, there’s kind of been like this big web that’s been placed over our food system. This is almost like the iron curtain where we have no insight into really where our food is coming from anymore. And it’s kind of this insane monopolization that’s happened where, you know, we no longer really understand what real food actually is.

Katie: And thankfully, I would say we’re seeing a trend, I hope, shift a little. And I know many of the people listening make an effort to find their local farmers and ranchers and to work with them directly. And even in my area, I’ve seen a shop open up that only sources local grass-fed beef from local ranchers. And so I’m hoping that we’re seeing a grassroots change on this. But like you explained, there are so many big system-wide problems that as individuals, often our best option is to sort of vote with our dollars and opt out of the system. I also know anybody who heard the episode with Diana Rodgers has heard the term regenerative agriculture. But I would love for you guys to kind of explain this a little bit in depth. Because I know, like you mentioned, there are so many issues of even labeling when it comes to the food industry now. And there’s also this still kind of lingering perception that meat is bad for both people and the environment. We dissected the idea of it being harmful for humans in the first episode. I’d love to tackle the environmental aspect a little bit. Because I feel like this is often used as a justification for eating less meat. And I know if we look at the data, it actually paints a much different picture. So can you explain what regenerative agriculture is and why making choices with our food dollars can actually make a difference in our food system?

Harry: Yeah, I would argue that voting with your dollar is really the only thing that we can do. I know it might sound a little bit extreme, but I really think, you know, where our dollars go, it really matters. And it might take time. It might take multiple layers of people in terms of voting with their dollars and making those right choices. But when you support the right systems and right incentives, ultimately the market reacts.

And so regenerative agriculture is a really interesting topic. And Brett and I have had the great pleasure of diving deep into this topic on our podcast. So we had Will Harris on our podcast, who’s the founder and rancher of White Oak Pastures. We’ve had Joel Salatin on the podcast, who’s really well-known in this space. He runs a farm in Virginia called Polyface Farms. We have one of our local guys here in Austin, Taylor Collins, on the podcast. He runs a farm, a Bison Ranch called ROAM Ranch. And so, what we’ve come to understand about regenerative agriculture is that regenerative agriculture is really about storing life into the soil. And what that means is these farmers are no longer reliant on chemical inputs in order to create this system of life. And so what they’re doing is they’re not using any sort of till in order to plant seeds. So they’re not uprooting the soil and leaving that soil barren so that the sunlight can expose that to sunlight, which ultimately dehydrates it and kills the life in the soil. So they’re not using any tills.

They’re not using any chemicals, which, you know, we were talking a little bit earlier about fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides. A lot of these chemicals have this really insane response where the fertilizer creates life for only one thing in the soil, and that’s that genetically modified seed. And then that seed is then genetically modified to be resistant to the other pesticides and herbicides that will get sprayed on that field. And so we’ve created this system where we are so reliant on these chemicals on the front end that we’re no longer relying on this natural system to create organic matter in the soil, which ultimately creates really healthy grasses and really healthy crops when we do want to raise these crops.

And so regenerative farming is really reliant on multi-speciation. So having multiple species on the property that are going to play different roles. So at ROAM Ranch, you’ll see bison next to turkeys and the turkeys are there to come behind the bison and make sure that they go and eat up all the parasites that are on the soil. So they act as an anti-parasitic for the bison so that these bison don’t need to get injected with certain hormones and things like that or vaccines. And so this idea that they create this kind of orchestra of these animals playing different roles and rotating them is really this idea of regenerative agriculture, where you’re trying to just restore as much life onto the land as possible. And that is the main premise is around restoring soil quality, because if you do that, the grasses grow, the grasses are healthier. The grass attracts more life in terms of rodents, insects, birds, and then all those different animals create this ecosystem that can thrive on its own.

Brett: Yeah, the word that Harry used that perfectly summarizes it is it’s almost like this choreography amongst all these different animals that’s really additive. It’s additive to the rancher. It’s additive to the animals. It’s additive to the customer. It’s additive to the environment. And the big buzzword right now is like, is regenerative agriculture scalable, right? So we asked that to Will Harris, who’s the founder of White Oak Pastures, which is probably the most well-known regenerative farm in the entire country out of Bluffton, Georgia. And his response is that it actually shouldn’t be scalable. It should be replicable. So the goal should always be actually feeding and sourcing food for your local food system. So the goal is that, you know, you’d have one regenerative rancher, a few different regenerative ranchers per town or county that are feeding those entire counties in those entire regions. So it’s not like you have this massive industrial farm in California, they’re monocropping one plant. They’re then shipping that out to grocery stores across the entire country. It’s really that like return to these localized roots where farmers are doing things truly the right way. Customers know about it. They care about it. They care about the nutrient quality, the way that the farmer actually takes care of the environment. And they’re paying their hard-earned dollar to that local rancher. And it’s this beautiful localized system. So it’s really this very additive process that’s in line with God and in line with nature.

Katie: Yeah, and we’ve gotten so far from that in at least the conventional grocery store model that exists. I love that idea of instead of being scalable, it being able to be replicated easily and getting back to local food. And I know that can be a learning curve for a lot of people. So I would love to hear from you guys any tips. I know you’ve been living this way for a very long time now. What are some of the steps to get into that? What does optimal look like? I know many people may not even know if they have local ranchers and farmers, much less where to find them. Like, what are some of the ways that we can help with that transition? And do you see this as something that can eventually hopefully help change that system? Like, do you think we can shift that through our own choices?

Harry: Yeah, I’m certainly optimistic. I think we can make these changes. I feel it here in Austin, you know, more so than anywhere else that I’ve lived where people are really trying to live this high intention lifestyle. They really want to be ordering their food from the right places. You see restaurants following the trend. There’s more of these seed-oil free restaurants, farm to table restaurants.

The thing that I would say to listeners who are looking to take their first step here. So one, a few resources. The resources that I like to point people to is The Weston A. Price Foundation. And then also eatwild.com. These are two great resources in terms of getting more information, but also finding people to connect with when it comes to finding food sources nearby. And then for me, you know, my story around getting more connected with the local food system around me, I started ordering from a co-op when I was living in Boston and that co-op would send me eggs and some meat every month. And it just opened my eyes to start learning a little bit more to start cooking more of my meals. And I ultimately ended up ordering food from White Oak Pastures, a regenerative farm in Atlanta. And that opened my eyes even more. I started reading Will’s blog. And then you start to just develop this relationship with your food that is sparking this curiosity of you wanting to go deeper and actually develop a relationship with the people that you’re getting your food from.

So both of those examples, I had distant relationships still with the food provider. And when I moved out here to Austin, I just became more and more curious about, you know, meeting the person who has raised my food, understanding how they’re actually going through the different processes, getting a deep freezer, ordering some beef in bulk, showing up at the farmer’s market on Saturdays and getting eggs from the person who’s actually going out into that field and making sure that the eggs are raised proper, the chickens are raised properly and the eggs are healthy. And so there’s just this, it’s a long process. And I just think starting small with something as simple as cooking more of your meals and ordering from some sort of co-op is a great place to start.

Brett: Yeah. And to Harry’s point, you know, this is a process that evolves over time. So I think step one is just fixing the actual macronutrients in the food that are going into your body. And then step two is what Harry is talking about of actually like going down the rabbit hole, doing your research, finding different farmers markets, ranchers, websites, et cetera, to connect with. But I think, you know, we’re hopeful all day long. It’s like, we see it in town. You know, we’ve talked to a bunch of different ranchers and farmers, like this raw dairy farm was telling us that, you know, their business was pretty desolate for upwards of a decade. And now they can’t keep their raw milk and stock because people are craving this like unpasteurized nutrient-dense goodness. And they’re driving an hour outside of the city just to connect with this ranch and buy from that. And, you know, other grass finished ranchers that are harvesting beef say very similar stories. And that’s super encouraging to us.

But, you know, if you don’t know of a good rancher to start, like Harry said, eatwild.com is amazing because you can literally just pop in your zip code and you can search for meat, milk, and eggs that are within like a five- to 10-mile radius of you. There’s also a great platform called Good Ranchers, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners have heard from. They’re a meat shipping business. So what they do is they work directly with local ranchers, grass-finished ranchers, buy their meat in bulk, and then they ship customized orders to you as well. So that’s kind of like a great intermediary step. If you don’t really know where you want to start, they can just ship all those products directly to you.

And, you know, we really believe that we could write the direction of the ship. It’s like, we see it a lot with our friends that aren’t necessarily in this movement. People are asking us about, you know, where can they find local farms? What are some good meat sources? Hey, can you teach me how to go carnivore? Like when I went carnivore in 2019, people thought I was out of my mind. And now I have so many friends that are outside of this movement that are looking to, to change the type of food that they put in their system, because I think they understand that the ship has been so steered in the wrong direction that what we’ve actually been taught is the wrong thing, but we can pull back towards the right direction, but just by taking over control of the food that you put into your body and doing these very simple things.

Harry: I would add just a few more resources to that. Brett mentioned Good Ranchers. So there’s also Force of Nature. You can get regeneratively sourced beef and venison and bison, chicken. They’re fantastic. Their blog is amazing. And Taylor Collins was on our podcast, as I said before. He’s incredible, a great resource. And then Perennial Pastures is a regenerative farm out of California. So they’re great. They ship nationwide. We have a code with them, Meat Mafia Podcast. If you do order from them, check that out. Holy Cow Beef, Shirttail Creek Farms. Anyone else that I’m missing that ships nationally? Those are some good ones. Yeah, that’s a good place to start.

Katie: Yeah, that’s so many great tips. I’ll make sure those are all linked in the show notes as well. And just to highlight, again, a couple of the things that you guys said, you mentioned just cooking more meals at home. And I know often the simple things are overlooked because of their simplicity, but there’s actually really strong data around this. And I know Sean Stephenson talks a lot about this in his most recent book that even just cooking three more meals at home per week can make a substantial and statistically valid difference in your health outcomes. Even if you’re not cooking the best of the foods, just cooking at home more makes a big difference.

And I know there’s also people like Dr. Gabrielle Lyon who really educate about meat being, or I mean, muscle being our largest organ and the need for protein, especially animal protein for longevity and for health. And like I said, this was something I had to learn and get used to was actually getting enough protein. And it changed my energy levels drastically when I did that. So if there are any other moms out there who, I mean, we manage so much as moms, that’s one tip I give is just consume as much protein within that ratio as you can, because it’s amazing how much energy you’ll get from that.

I think also what I heard from throughout this whole episode and our other episode is it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we’re often making it. Often the simplification and getting back to that foundational nutritional stuff is really what makes the biggest difference. And I know, like you said, when I started learning these things, they were so obscure, nobody was doing it. And now I’ve seen friends of mine that are into it, even for the, just the beauty side. I have one friend and people asked her recently, like, how is your skin so phenomenal? And she was like, I pretty much eat bowls of meat all day. And that was her beauty secret. And so I love that the tide seems to be shifting. I also know I’m a big fan of a product you guys created called Noble Origins, which I think for families especially is kind of a cheat code because it can be difficult to get kids to eat enough protein as well, even though it’s so important for them, especially when they’re literally building the bodies that are going to last them their whole lives and they’re building their initial skeletal muscle. So can you guys talk about Noble Origins and everything that went into that process?

Brett: Yeah, no, we appreciate it, Katie. And yeah, Noble Origins is our supplement company. And we’re trying to make the healthiest real food supplements that are empowering people to eat more animal products because we really believe that everyone has a right to, a God-given right to badass health, to live the best life that you possibly can. And we really feel like it’s tapping into this ancient wisdom of animal products that really can help you achieve that optimal health.

So what we basically did at Noble is we created the ideal version of a protein powder that tastes delicious, is super nutrient-dense, has the most bioavailable ingredients in it that comes together in powder form. So with one scoop of Noble, we make a chocolate flavor and a vanilla flavor, you’re getting 25 grams of beef protein isolate. So the protein is actually coming from the muscle tissue of the cow. There’s also a full organ complex in there, which has some liver, heart, spleen, pancreas. There’s also colostrum, which is the first milk of the mother cow. And then there’s also collagen powder in there too, which has a whole host of amazing benefits to it. So you’re getting all these really unique nutrients that you’re probably not getting just from eating straight muscle meat, but it also tastes delicious.

And so you actually reminded me this of cooking your own meals. One of the things that Harry and I are trying to stop doing is just demonizing food groups, but more so like you have to go a level deeper and it’s actually the preparation of the food either makes the poison or the antidote. So I think a French fries is a great example. Right? It’s like you get a McDonald’s French fries, 17 ingredients cooked in seed oils. And then what’s a French fries at home. It’s regenerative potatoes, beef tallow, salt spices. That’s actually a health food.

Ice cream is the same thing. You get that at Jerry’s 16 different ingredients. They literally put vegetable oil into it, or you can make local raw milk ice cream, which raw milk, cream, egg yolks, scoop of Noble chocolate. We throw it in the Ninja creamy. Your child literally thinks that it’s chocolate ice cream and it’s loaded with protein, fat, nutrients. It’s delicious. It’s sustainable. So we’re super passionate about helping parents, number one, have access to these products for themselves, but also make something that tastes so good, but it’s also so nutrient dense that your child loves it. And they’re getting these nutrients that they might not otherwise get. We have a ton of mom customers that literally make the Noble chocolate and blend it with some raw milk and their kids think that they’re drinking chocolate milk and have no idea everything that’s in there, which is pretty cool. So, so yeah, we, we started the company in Austin in April. And, we’re just trying to scale this thing one customer at a time. And in our website is nobleorigins.com.

Katie: Amazing. I’ll make sure everything we’ve talked about, all the great resources you provided are linked in the show notes for you guys listening on the go. That’s always at wellnessmama.com. But Brett and Harry, this has been such a fun conversation. So it was our first one. I really appreciate the time and I appreciate the work you guys are doing to make this more accessible and easier for families in the world. So thank you so much.

Brett: Thanks, Katie.

Harry: Thanks, Katie.

Brett: We’re huge fans of yours, so it’s great to come on the show and get to connect with your audience. We appreciate it.

Katie: Well, and thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re all so grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of The Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


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