General Mills to implement regenerative agriculture on 1M acres
- General Mills has committed to using regenerative agriculture methods on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030, according to a release. The method of farming is designed to protect natural resources by bringing carbon from the air and storing it in the soil.
- The company is partnering with farmers, suppliers and farm advisors in "key growing regions" to increase adoption of these more sustainable practices for ingredients including oats, wheat, corn, dairy feed and sugar beets.
- General Mills is giving $650,000 to Kiss the Ground — a nonprofit organization that advocates for environmental practices — to train farmers on how to boost profits, make the land more resilient to harsh conditions and lower costs with soil health methods.
General Mills has been building up to this announcement with smaller partnerships, and is now making a big commitment to regenerative agriculture. The company, however, isn't the only one latching on to this trend. Applegate recently launched a line of pork sausages from small farms that use regenerative agricultural practices, and last year, Danone gave $6 million for regenerative agriculture and soil health research. More and more companies are looking to regenerative agriculture to boost their sustainable reputation.
Regenerative agriculture provides direct investments to individual farmers to help them convert to more sustainable practices. In return, the company can scale up its regenerative-farmed ingredients, which align with growing consumer demand for eco-friendly and environmentally conscious products.
In 2014, General Mills acquired Annie's. The purchase of a brand long-known to prioritize environmental stewardship was likely a catalyst for General Mills' shift toward regenerative practices. Less than four years later, the company announced that Annie's Macaroni & Cheese would be made with wheat grown using these sustainable farming practices. At the time, General Mills said it would convert 34,000 acres to organic farmland in South Dakota with plans to help farmers implement regenerative practices like crop rotations and cover cropping. That effort was seemingly successful enough for the brand to now expand the practice to one million acres.
The promise to grow its regenerative agriculture practices falls in line with General Mills' recent steps to improve the sustainability of its businesses. The company has already committed to improving its soil health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2050. Other efforts include using age-old farming methods to incorporate more organic acreage and work with perennial grains.
"Efforts to improve soil health and enrich biodiversity are critical to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges," Larry Clemens, North America Region Agriculture Director for the Nature Conservancy, said in the release.
Sustainability has become more of a necessity for food companies in recent years and the industry is constantly looking for new, more environmentally friendly ways for food production amid a growing population and increasingly scarce resources. And consumers want more sustainable products, too. Almost half of U.S. consumers said they would change their purchasing decisions based on environmental standards, according to recent Nielsen data. With companies looking to go green and consumers willing to pay, General Mills could soon be one of many companies that makes big commitments to regenerative agriculture.
Follow Lillianna Byington on Twitter