ReGen Brands Recap #21

Robby Sansom @ Force of Nature

Reclaiming The Legacy of Meat

Robby Sansom is the Co-Founder and CEO at Force of Nature Meats. Force of Nature is supporting regenerative agriculture through its line of regeneratively focused meats that nourish our bodies, our soil, and our future.

The Brand

The Force of Nature brand includes products across the meat category, including raw ground meat, steaks, pre-cooked sausages, even hot dogs. In addition to traditional poultry, beef and bison, they also offer exotics including venison, elk and wild boar. All of their beef and bison is pasture-raised and 100% grass-fed. Force of Nature products are available in almost 20,000 retail outlets across the country, as well as direct to consumer via their website. They also supply a handful of restaurant chains, for example Hopdaddy, that care about sourcing regenerative proteins.

An Epic Evolution

Robby began his regenerative journey with EPIC Provisions, where he joined Co-Founders Katie Forrest and Taylor Collins. What began as a vegan energy bar company evolved with Katie’s health struggles and the need to introduce healthy animal-based proteins back into her diet. As a brand, they were intentional about driving regenerative solutions, partnering with the Savory Institute to develop a system and brand that stewarded the land and human health.

In 2015, they sold EPIC to General Mills – creating a template for how small mission-based, values-driven companies can preserve their integrity and values through an acquisition. It was also an acknowledgment that, to manifest change at scale, they had to collaborate with an organization that could support it. 

“The perception was we were a bunch of cavalier Texans making unfounded claims that could jeopardize the integrity of the entire General Mills portfolio." - Robby

Within 18 months, after carefully stewarding the handover department-by-department, EPIC steered General Mills to an about-face on regenerative agriculture, helping it become the first Fortune 500 company to commit to convert a significant portion of their supply chain to regenerative agriculture.

Fast forward to 2019, despite hesitations about launching another brand, Force of Nature was born. 

“We weren't really enthusiastic about doing it again. We didn't need to do it again. But honestly, we felt like it was a responsibility. We were uniquely positioned with a set of skills and experience, we’d already built a supply chain; we were well-educated on regenerative ag, its limitations and opportunities. We needed to do it, if nothing else to raise more awareness and kick the door open for somebody else to finish the job.” – Robby

A Broken System

Robby took a deep dive into the current food system, explaining how it’s designed to create a lot of food, cheaply. But the tradeoffs are alarming – desertification of 70% of fertile lands across the globe, loss of topsoil, an extractive system that depends on chemical amendments that end up in our waterways. It’s an industrialized system where farmers / producers end up as cogs in a wheel, struggling to make ends meet, racking up debt and eventually losing their land after five generations. At its peak in 1935, America had 6.8 million farms, down to about 2 million farms by 2021, with farmers currently accounting for less than 1 percent of our population. 

“Our neighbors no longer produce our food. We’ve got a farm bill that pumps hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up a mono-crop, extractive agricultural system focused on producing cheap corn and soybeans. We put it into every food in the grocery store, feed our animals on it, make every system dependent upon it – even though it causes harm to the land and the farmers who produce it.”

“We’ve made unilateral compromises to produce food in this hyper-efficient, commoditized system that celebrates price above all else, at the expense of all else. Cheap food on the shelf may have a low sticker price but it has a high cost. There's a huge cost to this commodified, subsidized cheap meat that is deferred – with human health and land health eventually paying the price.” – Robby 

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Lowering the Hurdle to Better Systems

Like so many other regenerative brands, Robby acknowledges that it’s more challenging than it needs to be to drive solutions at scale. There are incredible producers and groups trying to change the current food system, but the learning curve for consumers and the inaccessibility of products are huge hurdles. 

Hence, their mission is two-sided: 

  • Make it easy for consumers to source regenerative proteins, and 
  • Work with land stewards, producers and processors to create supply networks that connect these "heroes” to the consumers that are excited about supporting those systems.

“We’re working on the front lines, at both ends, to connect the consumers who have been underserved and misled by our current food system with the producers who are making an effort to get out of a system that is punitive to their very existence.” – Robby

Our Path to 50% Market Share 4 Regen

For Robby, it’s time to expose the wizard behind the curtain. The average consumer overwhelmingly believes that the food system they’re supporting is markedly different than it is. Consumers are faced with all sorts of “greenwashing” product claims that lack clarity and integrity – natural, vegetarian-fed, free-range, pasture-raised, grass-fed. Consumers have been shielded from reality, unknowingly complicit in supporting a system that’s truly counter to their values and health. Worse yet, while more consumers are looking at packages with intention and are willing to pay a premium for a claim they think is representative of something positive, they’re often getting products that aren’t any better than conventional. 

Robby believes his job isn’t to tell consumers they’re wrong for supporting the current system. Rather, he wants to make sure that consumers see “behind the curtain” and know what’s being shielded and concealed from them. 

Force of Nature is working to raise the bar, celebrating progress over perfection, raising their standards every year around integrity and transparency to make it easier for consumers and regenerative producers to be rewarded by the system. They’re telling their story, helping consumers form relationships not just with the brand but with the food, animals, and people raising the animals. 

“If we open up consumer's eyes, I believe most will gladly support a system that is transparently representing what they see value in. And that's what we're trying to do. We're just trying to create awareness and give choices. And it's working.” – Robby

You can check out the full episode with Robby from Force of Nature HERE.

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This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober