In a small city in North Carolina that once was one of this nation’s leaders in tobacco production, hundreds of people from around the U.S. gathered to discuss and celebrate the practice of growing livestock and producing healthy meat for consumers. These folks weren’t interested in talking about the current conventional system for meat production like CAFOs, but rather this event was specifically for farmers and ranchers, meat cutters, and industry professionals who are participating in bringing about a revolution of epic proportions to make local, pasture-raised/grass-fed, organic meat the mainstream trend of the future. Over the two-day Carolina Meat Conference, the organizers hosted discussions that dove into topics like artisanal butchering, logistics for local food systems, scalability, regulations, labeling, and profitability.
Our own Allan Savory gave the evening keynote at their banquet dinner to an eager crowd of over 400 attendees. He talked about the need to celebrate livestock as the only tool humans have to effectively mimic nature and graze grasslands the way that grasses need to be grazed to keep them healthy while simultaneously sequestering massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. This process also builds fertility, increases soil water holding capacity, lengthens the growing season and ultimately increases production which creates more food for both domestic animals and wildlife. Allan also touched briefly on the broader concepts of Holistic Management outside the realm of agriculture and ecology and what it means to make decisions holistically. He then talked a bit about policy and regulation and what it will take to remove the hurdles to really bring about a nation-wide shift of meat production in this country. Allan was then surprised by his old friend Sam Bingham, the co-author of the Holistic Management Handbook, who after Allan’s presentation stood up and honored him with a bag-pipe salute.
The following day Allan spoke on a panel along with Ray Archuletta from Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kevin Mahalko from Grass Works, Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler from University of Kentucky and Johnny Rogers from North Carolina State University. There were about 100 people in the audience and they held a fantastic conversation between those on the panel driven mostly from questions and comments in the audience. It was an extremely open minded group that is clearly ready to help lead change in the industry.
This conference played a crucial role in not only highlighting the importance of family farmers and multi-generational ranchers in developing a new paradigm in the meat industry, but also in celebrating the value between the connections made between producers to band together and overcome shared obstacles. We look forward to continuing to work with them at future events and to see their progress in ushering in a new paradigm.