There’s an undeniable buzz around regenerative food production but for Jacqueline Smith, founder of Central Grazing Company, that buzz should extend to other facets of our consumer lives, too. Based in Kansas’ Flint Hills, the operation offers Animal Welfare Approved lamb and 100% traceable leather goods. Smith raises a mixed-breed flock of sheep and sources meat and fiber from shepherds who also raise AWA flocks.
Although the primary focus of the discussion around how livestock can be a part of regenerating ecosystems, sheep also have an important role to play. They produce fiber as well as meat, readily graze weeds and other vegetation that cattle don’t like, and are a great option for beginning farmers who may lack the handling facilities or acreage needed to keep cattle.
Sadly, only half of Americans have tried lamb, according to the American Lamb Board. The amount of lamb eaten per person this year is about 0.6lbs, compared to 55lbs of beef. The decline in consumer interest since the 1950s was caused by a variety of factors, one of which was bad experiences American GIs had with eating tough meat from very old sheep during World War II.
And while the wool industry used to thrive in the US, it has seen a steady decline in recent years as synthetic fibers have taken over the market. Wool synthetics can be manufactured cheaply and quickly out of plastic-based ingredients. The rise of synthetic wool production has lead to a sharp decline in the number of sheep that New Zealand produces. A number of outlets are fighting to raise awareness about the importance of choosing clothing made from natural fabrics including leather.
In the latest episode of Sustainable Dish, we chat with Smith about how she got started in sheep and the hoops she had to jump through to build a supply chain for the company’s regenerative leather goods.