Is regenerative agriculture becoming Big Food’s new cash cow?

How Big Food is Moving to Regenerative Agriculture

Progress: It is no secret that our centralized food system grants a large amount of influence to a small number of packaged food corporations like Mars and Nestle. These manufacturing giants make daily decisions about where to source ingredients, which not only determine what large, medium, and small farms across the globe plant but also how they grow it. In the past, ‘Big Food’ – a catchall term for firms that dominate the production and distribution of food and beverage – notoriously made procurement decisions that perpetuate the problems of an industrial food system. But in recent years, an increasing number of food corporations have turned their attention towards sustainable farming initiatives that aim to reduce their carbon footprint while enhancing supply chain resiliency.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the First Soil Health Roadmap

In 2016, General Mills, the world’s fourth-largest producer of organic and natural foods, took the lead by working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to develop the first Soil Health Roadmap, which laid out a 10-step path to building healthier topsoil across US croplands. The company has since committed to advancing regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland (roughly the size of the Grand Canyon) by 2030. Danone North America is not far behind. In 2018, the packaged food and beverage company commited $6 million to research regenerative agriculture and soil health. Soon after, Danone brought together 19 corporations, including Kellogg and Nestle, to launch the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) coalition. The cohort of brands is unified under a shared mission to rebuild biodiversity and eliminate deforestation within their supply chains. And in 2020, McDonald’s and Cargill – two names associated with industrial animal agriculture – joined forces with TNC and Target to debut an $8.5 million project focused on advancing sustainable practices. Over the course of five years, this group will help Nebraska producers incorporate regenerative principles across 100,000 acres of cropland.