Sticker14At long last, the day is finally here where we can go big!

A few years back,  Audubon created their Audubon Conservation Ranching program to certify ranchers grazing in a way that does great things for bird habitat.  Turns out this is pretty much the same grazing management systems that store more carbon in soil and catch more water falling from the sky.  In effect, the birds tell us that we’re managing landscapes in a way that allows all life to thrive.

Audubon has now certified 1.8 million acres of ranch land in the US under this system.  The trick now is to open up markets for products coming from these ranches in a way that also makes it pay farmers for these good things they’re doing for the land.

Working with the folks at Audubon, we’ve created Blue Nest Beef.  In addition to being all Audubon certified, our Blue Nest Beef will also be 100% grassfed.  We’ll make this beef available by a regular subscription (monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly) delivered direct to your door across most of the contigiuous US (except far NW for now).  All of this beef will come from American farmers regenerating land here at home.  Of course the big idea is to connect a large network of producers to a large and eager market that allows this thing to scale for bigger impact.

So pop on over to our new web site at, to learn more.  And if you like what we’re doing, sign up to get some beef produced on bird friendly lands delivered direct to your door!


Other Recent Posts

Reinventing Real Beef

Posted on October 24, 2018 by

Nature works in wholes, but the temptation for us humans to just get even more clever with part-centric solutions seems quite irresistible.  Beef is no exception.  Many smart people have tagged the problems with beef as in need of big fixing [1].  But putting aside questions about calculations, the big mistake most make is focusing on just a part of the problem.

Depending on what part they focus on, they come up with different solutions.  Some want to feed cattle seaweed [2], some want to create synthetic meats [3], and others think we just need to eat less of it [4].  All such solutions are well intended, and appear to have merit if we only look at the problem in pieces.  But when it comes to fixing the real problems with beef, we think it’s helpful to step back and look at whole system fundamentals.

Every calorie in food comes from photosynthesis.  Through the magic of biology, photosynthesis uses solar energy to combine CO2and H2O and store that energy in the form of sugars.  For alternatives to real beef, this still holds true.  Whether coming from plants engineered to taste like meat, or from meat made in a vat without the animal, every calorie had to first come from a plant somewhere.  Therefore, if the ingredient plants were grown in a conventional way that sent toxins into a river or carbon into the air, putting a plant in a vat merely slips the pea under another shell that hides in a different hand.

Most people concerned about beef point their finger at methane which is a natural by-product of ruminant digestion.  But like unburned fuel from the tailpipe of a car, excess methane is a sign of a poorly tuned digestive engine in the cow.  Some propose solutions like reducing animal methane emissions by feeding seaweed to cows.  Seaweed works by providing missing nutrients that better tunes the animal’s overall conversion of feed into body mass.  However, what they may not know is that growing better quality and more diverse forage in pasture can do much the same thing.  Both lead to more energy going into the animal and less escaping as methane back out into the air.

But grazing in a way that leads to better and more diverse forage in pasture has many other benefits at the system scale that feeding seaweed or other part-based solutions can’t begin to touch.  A growing body of scientific literature proposes that beef grown in a way that improves soil can be a significant net climate benefit [5], can reduce flooding and nutrient loss [6], restore wildlife habitat [7], and produce more nutritious food [8].  Some recent research suggests that the production of beef cattle can even be done in a way where the carbon captured in soil significantly exceeds the emission of methane [9].  If implemented at scale, this could even possibly turn the production of beef into a net carbon sink.

If you want to fix a part of the problem with beef, go ahead and feed the cows seaweed, or make a ‘burger’ that looks and tastes like beef, or just stop eating beef altogether.  But make no mistake, there are still big problems behind that ‘burger’ (or whatever you choose to replace it with).

However, if you want to fix the real problem and the whole problem, make a burger out of real beef that’s produced in a way that regenerates real life.  Real food comes from real soil made from real sunshine by real life.  Grazing done differently grows more and better grass, more and better cows, more and better soil, more and better rivers, more and better skies, more and better habitat, and more and better lives.

We need to reinvent beef, not by trying to fake it, but by making it real again.  Reinventing real beef fixes more than just the parts of the problems with beef, it fixes the whole of it.



[1] Bill Gates. “Climate change and the 75% problem.” Oct 17, 2018.

[2] Judith Mernit. “How Eating Seaweed Can Help Cows to Belch Less Methane.”  Yale Environment 360.  July 2018.

[3] Carolyn Mattick, et. al. “Anticipatory Life Cycle Analysis of In Vitro Biomass Cultivation for Cultured Meat Production in the United States.”  Environmental Science & Technology. September 2015.

[4] Marco Springmann, et. al. “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits.”  Nature. October 2018.

[5] W.R. Teague, et. al. “The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America.”  Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.  March/April 2016.

[6] Jong-Yoon Park, et. al. “Evaluating the ranch and watershed scale impacts of using traditional and adaptive multi-paddock grazing on runoff, sediment and nutrient losses in North Texas, USA.”  Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. February 2017.

[7] Max Alleger. “Grazing for conservation.”  Missouri Conservationist Magazine, May 2016.

[8] Cynthia Daley. Et. al. “A review of the fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.” Nutrition Journal. March 2010.

[9] Paige Stanley, et. al. “Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems.” Agricultural Systems.  May 2018.


Charging the soil carbon battery

Posted on January 6, 2017 by

What is soil organic matter, how did it get there, and what does it do?img_2354

Most people understand that all life is based on carbon.  Photosynthesis is the process in which plants take CO2 from the air, and H2O from the ground, and use solar energy to power the
conversion of molecules into organic matter.  The organic matter is made of carbon, hydrogen and some oxygen, with most of the oxygen respired back into the air.  All carbon in all life started as CO2 in the air and then entered the cycle of life by way of a growing plant.

But what few notice is that the full cycle of carbon includes much magic hidden underground – literally.  Although mostly made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, the plant also requires other nutrients to grow.  For example, nitrogen, required for all amino acids, originates in the air, but enters the plant through the roots.  The full array of micronutrients required for the plant to grow, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and dozens of other minerals, all originate in the soil and enter the plant via its roots.  Even in the case of synthetic fertilizers, nitrogen originates from the air and minerals from the soil – just from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

When we don’t add those nutrients synthetically, these nutrients all come by way of a highly diverse and complex microbial ecosystem in the soil.  The soil microbiome extracts the nitrogen from the air and the minerals from the soil parent material.  Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing is designed to drive this microbial ecosystem to its peak performance using three pathways:

Manure – Manure is a complex array of partially digested plant biomass and diverse microbial life. It is the part of what was eaten that could not be readily converted into energy or the growing body mass of the animal.  One of the key benefits of AMP grazing is that the manure is more evenly distributed across the land[1].  This doesn’t simply dilute a problem – it creates an important soil carbon asset.  When pesticide and dewormer use is avoided, insects (e.g. dung beetles) and worms actively tap manure as a resource – breaking it down and carrying it down into the soil.

Trample – Trample is the fraction of the plant biomass left behind after grazing that is in contact with the ground. After grazing, some biomass is left standing and regrows, but some has been ground into the soil.  Like manure, this biomass becomes a resource for worms, bacteria and fungi that break it down into nutrients[2].  Although much of this ends up being respired by the microbes back into the air, some of it is incorporated into the soil and thus feeds the soil organic matter ecosystem.

Root Exudates – The most significant pathway for growing soil organic matter is root exudation. Stated simply, plant roots leak – on purpose.  Plants allocate anywhere from 10 to 40+% of the sugars they make via photosynthesis to feeding soil microbes[3].  This sugar is the ‘paycheck’ by which plants ‘hire’ microbes to bring back the nutrients that plant needs to grow[4].  Importantly, exudation is happening while the plant is growing.  When grazed, the herbivore sends a plant back to the point of maximum rate of growth, and thus the maximum rate of exudation of sugars from roots.

Thus, AMP grazing actually drives the force that ‘pumps’ CO2 from the atmosphere into the soil microbiome.  Root sugars feed the soil microbiome more pervasively and to a deeper depth than manure and trample.  Exudates enable cycling of nutrients from parent soil material at deeper and deeper depths over time in support of deeper roots.  Manure, trample and root exudation work together to grow the overall volume of organic matter accumulated in soil.

When we grow organic matter in soil, we are literally taking carbon from the air and putting it to work in soil in a cycle that helps grow more grass.  Soil organic matter is like a soil carbon battery that provides the underlying energy for the cycling of life.  If the grazing herbivore isn’t present, the air-plant-soil carbon cycle doesn’t work right and the battery goes under or uncharged.



[1] Peterson, P. R., and J. R. Gerrish. “Grazing management affects manure distribution by beef cattle.” Proc. Am. Forage Grassland Council, Lexington (1995): 170-174.

[2] Kögel-Knabner, Ingrid. “The macromolecular organic composition of plant and microbial residues as inputs to soil organic matter.” Soil Biology and Biochemistry 34.2 (2002): 139-162.

[3] Bais, Harsh P., et al. “The role of root exudates in rhizosphere interactions with plants and other organisms.” Annu. Rev. Plant Biol. 57 (2006): 233-266.

[4] Kallenbach, Cynthia M., Serita D. Frey, and A. Stuart Grandy. “Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls.” Nature Communications 7 (2016): 13630.

Can we produce grassfed beef at scale?

Posted on October 10, 2016 by

A few years back, Allen wrote an excellent article addressing common concerns about land area required for grassfed beef production at very large scale.  We know folks want a simple answer, but as is often the case, the truth has a number of moving parts.

With a little back-of-the-envelop math, Allen walks through calculations showing that although it would take time, yes, we actually could.  Now uncertainties remain wide, so no estimate is rock-solid, but to us, the limits of production are not a reason to not head in that direction.

Read the whole post over at Blue Nest Beef.

WSJ: “Why Grass-Fed Beef is on a Roll”

Posted on September 27, 2016 by

“When many people eat beef, they want to know if the cow ate grass.

Grass-fed beef, once a niche luxury, is now sold at ballgames, conventional centers, and nearly every Walmart in the US.”

Article here.