Three years in the making, the group with more than 40 restaurants throughout England and Wales is the first in the UK to develop a regeneratively farmed beef supply chain in response to the British farming and carbon crisis dominating the industry.
Honest Burgers is proud to announce its pioneering regenerative farming programme this month. As of today, 6 restaurants will serve beef from regenerative farms, in a move which transforms the group’s supply chain with the explicit aim to reduce its carbon footprint and the environmental impact of eating beef. By the start of 2024, all restaurants will serve this beef, which the founders hope will make a hugely positive impact on the British farming industry and environment.
Regenerative farming is the process of farming with as little impact on the soil and environment as possible – mimicking what would occur in the wild, and restoring the land to full health and productivity. It goes beyond sustainable farming, which just aims to maintain the level of already depleted land: regenerative farming is cumulatively restorative. In practice that means reducing the need for diesel-chugging machinery and artificial fertilisers, improving biodiversity and allowing cows to roam with their hooves gently disturbing the soil without intensive ploughing – a process known as mob grazing – which stores carbon.
Today, we announce one of the biggest things to happen in Honest Burger's history.
We are ripping up our beef supply chain and starting again. We weren’t doing enough about our impact on the planet. We need to tackle the biggest issue head-on. Our beef. pic.twitter.com/17J8fCNovt
— Honest Burgers (@honestburgers) May 23, 2022
The practical implications of this move mean that Honest now works directly with British regenerative farmers (as opposed to the industry standard of working with major abattoirs and meat processors) – ensuring that they are re-connected to the food supply chain; working to long-term, attainable goals and orders (so incomes are secured) and pay them fairly for an exceptionally raised product. By improving the soil’s fertility this move supports farmers’ efforts to build a more sustainable future in the industry.
To ensure a completely transparent and accountable supply chain, Honest Burgers now buys the whole cow directly from farmers, allowing Honest to influence and monitor regenerative processes at the farms and reduce its carbon footprint. Around 70% of the cow is used to make Honest’s burger patties at its butchery, and the cuts reserved for premium steaks – which constitute approximately 20% of the cow – are then sold to partners Turner and George and The Ethical Butcher. Honest is the first in the UK of this scale to rework its supply chain and begin switching over to regeneratively farmed beef.
This move has required a substantial financial investment from the group and has taken 3 years to bring to market. It has been spearheaded by Honest’s co-founder Tom Barton who has worked with British farming collective Grassroots Farming, who promote regenerative farming practices in the industry. Barton has worked with Grassroots to source farmers directly; developing the new supply chain, and partnership with our butchery partners; and refining the product so the burgers have remained consistent with the high standards Honest have always demanded.
He says of the move – “We wanted to tackle our impact on the planet head on. For us that meant the elephant in the room, which is our beef. We’re buying the whole cow direct from our farmers which means we can influence how they farm and pay them a fair price. Farmers are now an integral part of our team – as they always should have been.
We’re doing all this to improve our supply chain, reducing our carbon footprint and incentivising the right outputs such as soil health, biodiversity and animal welfare. It’d be a lot easier to just offset our carbon and be ‘carbon neutral’ as a lot of businesses have done – and I understand why as this is a really challenging problem – but we don’t think that’s the answer, it just shifts the problem elsewhere and kicks the can down the road… Industrialised farming, with its dependency on carbon-heavy machinery, pesticides and artificial fertilisers, is the issue.
We’re changing every step of how our burgers get to your plate and it starts in the fields. I couldn’t be more proud that we’re taking this step, this is ‘field to plate’ in action, and this is only the beginning. ”
Honest Burgers’ regenerative beef is now available in the following restaurants: Brixton, Peckham, Clapham, Oxford Circus, Soho, Tooting. The remainder of the estate will be switched in turn until the start of 2024. Customers will enjoy the same burgers in the same settings but they’ll be making an entirely new contribution to the future of a healthy British farming industry.