Promoting Sustainable, Regenerative Practices in California’s Meat Production


Roots of Change


Cows in a field

PHI’s Roots of Change (ROC) brings together partners and stakeholders to promote sustainable and regenerative practices in California's meat production, fostering collaboration and innovation within the food industry to create a more resilient and equitable food system for all.

600K meals served per day during the academic year by the University of California, which has now committed to supporting regenerative farming and local agriculture

130 animal producers, processors, butchers, buyers, and brands along with direct-to-consumer marketing and regenerative agriculture experts participated at the 2024 Regional Regenerative Meat Summit

Since 1967, seven thousand meat processing plants have closed in the United States. Only 3,000 remain and of those, many small and mid-scaled independent plants are on the verge of financial collapse. Today, three multi-national industrial meat companies control over 80% of the US meat supply. These near monopolies force down prices paid to farmers and ranchers and force up prices paid by chefs, food service and eaters. The droughts and wildfires of the last 25 years have only exacerbated the challenges.

Regenerative ranching offers a sustainable, attainable alternative, resulting in meat products that are sourced and produced in ways that rebuild soil health, reduce carbon emissions and promote biodiversity. Additionally, grass-fed beef has higher levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in comparison to grain-fed beef, potentially exerting protective effects against several diseases ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease.

Since 2009, PHI’s Roots of Change (ROC) has advanced the regenerative ranching model by bringing together hundreds of partners and stakeholders including meat producers, processors, advocates, chefs and others; researching the longstanding challenges in the meat supply chain, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; and more. By fostering collaboration and innovation within the food industry, ROC strives to create a more resilient and equitable food system for all.

Thanks in part to these efforts, in 2022 the University of California committed to supporting regenerative farming and local agriculture. The institution is now adopting a regenerative meat supply chain for its 10 campuses and five medical systems—which serves 600,000 meals per day during the academic year.

High school cafeteria workers serving healthy lunch options to students

Roots of Change in the News: "Regenerative Beef Gets a Boost from California Universities"

In Civil Eats, Michael Dimock, program director of PHI’s Roots of Change and Santana Diaz, advisor to Roots of Change and executive chef at the University of California Davis Medical Center, discuss how a network of 10 campuses and five medical centers are supporting regenerative farming to mitigate the effects of climate change and drive a healthier, more equitable food system.

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2024 Regional Regenerative Meat Summit

In March 2024, Roots of Change and partners from the UC Davis Institute of the Environment and IC-FOODS brought together a diverse array of stakeholders from Northern California for the second Regional Regenerative Meat Summit. In total, 130 participants joined for an all-day workshop and dinner, designed to form new connections and explore sustainable and regenerative practices in meat production. Attendees included animal producers, processors, butchers, buyers and brands along with direct-to-consumer marketing and regenerative agriculture experts.

The event also featured Virginia Jameson, deputy secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), who participated in a panel discussion on Defining Regenerative Agriculture. The CDFA is currently in the process of defining regenerative agriculture for the state of California.

This event was part of ROC’s three-year effort, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, to support small and mid-scale regenerative livestock farmers and ranchers to become a source of healthy meat for the University of California system, as well as California’s regionally owned grocers, butchers, and restaurants.

Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Michele Thorne of Good Meat Project presenting on Infrastructure & Processes for Meat Business Success.
Paul Williams, Chief Procurement Officer, University of California; Michele Thorne and Doniga Markegard networking during a break
Participants with peace sign
Participants introducing their businesses and networking during a speed dating exercise
Panel on What is Regenerative Agriculture with Loren Poncia (2nd from left), Virginia Jameson, and Carrie Richards
Koji Fujioka (l) and Caleb Avalos from The Local Butcher Shop, Berkeley, enjoying the Fajita lunch and taking a break
Joe Morris, Katie Olthoff and Regina Hanna from sharing tips on direct marketing for regenerative meat businesses
Chefs at regenerative meat workshop

Versions of this impact were first published in newsletters from PHI’s Roots of Change and Center for Wellness and Nutrition.

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