While growing your own produce and raising livestock surrounded by fresh air and acres of open space sounds like a dream, it’s not a reality for many of us. But according to Will Harris, a fourth-generation farmer and owner of White Oak Pastures—a family farm utilizing regenerative agriculture and humane animal husbandry practices—it is possible to follow a farm-like lifestyle wherever you reside.
City dwellers, take note! On this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Harris shares helpful tips to take ownership of your personal food system and live a healthier life. (As a result, we may even shift the future of agriculture.)
1. Choose grass-fed meat, if you’re able
If you can, Harris recommends always opting for grass-fed meat. Now, grass-fed has become a bit of a buzzword in health and well-being conversations, but Harris provides some thought-provoking insight into the cattle-raising process: On Harris’ farm, it takes cows about two years on the pasture to reach what he calls their “slaughter weight,” which is about 1,200 pounds.
“The life of an industrial creature is very, very different,” he explains. “It is all about how fast you can grow the animal and how cheaply you can do it.” In the industrial model, he says it takes around 18 months for the cow to reach 1,500 or 1,600 pounds. “It produces an unnaturally obese creature that would never occur in nature,” he explains.
And unnaturally obese creatures have a much shorter life expectancy: Says Harris, the average natural life span of a cow is around 20 to 24 years, but if you left an industrial cow to live out its days in that feedlot, “[it] wouldn’t live to be much older than that 24 months old,” Harris notes. “The creature is dying of all the diseases [from] obesity and lack of exercise that kill most of us.”