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In today’s world, sustainability is a hot topic. As we face increasing environmental challenges, many people are looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprint. One effective and completely misunderstood method is through our diet. Counter to the common narrative, adopting ancestral eating practices can promote sustainability (and improve our health) – not plant based or lab based foods. This blog post will explore how ancestral nutrition contributes to environmental sustainability and why it’s worth considering for both personal and planetary health.

What is Ancestral Eating?

Ancestral eating, also known as the ancestral diet or Paleo diet, involves consuming foods that our prehistoric ancestors would have eaten. This includes things that could be hunted and foraged in the wild:

  • Whole, unprocessed foods
  • Grass-fed and pasture-raised meats
  • Organ meats
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoidance of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds (monocrops)

The idea is to eat in a way that aligns with human evolution, which can lead to improved health outcomes. But beyond personal health, ancestral eating has significant environmental benefits as well.

Environmental Impact of Modern Diets

Modern diets, especially those high in processed foods and industrially farmed products, have a considerable environmental footprint. Here’s how:

  1. Industrial Agriculture: Modern farming practices often involve monoculture (growing a single crop over a large area), heavy pesticide use, and synthetic fertilisers. These practices deplete soil nutrients, reduce biodiversity, and contribute to water pollution.
  2. Livestock Farming: Conventional livestock farming, particularly beef production, is a major source of greenhouse gases, deforestation, and water use.
  3. Food Processing and Packaging: The production, transportation, and packaging of processed foods contribute significantly to carbon emissions and plastic pollution.

How Ancestral Eating Promotes Sustainability

1. Support for Regenerative Agriculture

Ancestral eating emphasises whole, unprocessed foods, often sourced from local and sustainable farms. These farms typically use regenerative agriculture practices, which focus on restoring soil health and improving biodiversity. Regenerative farming techniques include:

  • Crop rotation
  • Cover cropping
  • Reduced tillage
  • Integrating livestock and crop production

These methods enhance soil fertility, reduce erosion, and increase the land’s capacity to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere .

2. Reduction in Food Waste

Ancestral diets encourage consuming the whole animal, including organ meats, which are often discarded in modern diets. By using more parts of the animal, we can reduce food waste significantly. Additionally, organ meats are nutrient-dense and can contribute to a more balanced diet.

3. Lower Carbon Footprint

Wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, and pasture-raised animals typically have a lower carbon footprint compared to conventionally raised livestock. Grass-fed beef, for example, has been shown to have lower greenhouse gas emissions when managed properly on rotational grazing systems . Similarly, wild-caught fish tend to have less environmental impact compared to farmed fish, which often require significant inputs and can contribute to water pollution.

4. Biodiversity Conservation

Eating a variety of plant and animal foods as part of an ancestral diet supports biodiversity. Diverse crops and livestock breeds contribute to resilient ecosystems and reduce the risk of species extinction. This contrasts sharply with the monoculture practices prevalent in industrial agriculture, which undermine biodiversity.

5. Sustainable Animal Husbandry

Traditional animal husbandry practices often associated with ancestral eating, such as rotational grazing and free-range systems, promote animal welfare and environmental health. These practices can enhance soil carbon sequestration, improve water retention in soils, and reduce the need for chemical inputs .

Practical Steps to Adopt Sustainable Ancestral Eating

Adopting an ancestral diet with a focus on sustainability doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some practical steps to get started:

1. Choose Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised Meats

Look for labels that indicate animals were raised on pasture and fed their natural diet. Grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and free-range poultry are good options.

2. Incorporate Organ Meats

Organ meats like liver, heart, and kidneys are incredibly nutritious and often more affordable than muscle meats. They can be added to dishes or consumed in capsule form if the taste is a barrier.

3. Buy Local and Seasonal Produce

Purchasing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables supports local farmers and reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting food long distances.

4. Opt for Wild-Caught Fish

Whenever possible, choose wild-caught fish over farmed varieties. Wild-caught fish are typically more sustainable and have a better nutritional profile.

5. Minimise Processed Foods

Reducing your intake of processed foods not only benefits your health but also decreases the environmental impact associated with their production and packaging.

The Bigger Picture: Global Implications of Ancestral Eating

While individual dietary choices are important, broader systemic changes are necessary to make a significant impact on environmental sustainability. Encouraging the adoption of ancestral eating practices can influence market demand, potentially leading to more sustainable agricultural practices on a larger scale.

Policy and Advocacy

Advocating for policies that support regenerative agriculture, sustainable fishing practices, and biodiversity conservation is crucial. Supporting organisations and initiatives that promote these causes can amplify the positive effects of ancestral eating, such as: Meat & Livestock Australia, Soil for Life, Regenerative Australian Farmers.

Education and Awareness

Raising awareness about the environmental benefits of ancestral nutrition is key. Educating consumers on how their food choices impact the planet can drive demand for more sustainable products.


Ancestral eating is not only a pathway to better health but also a powerful tool for promoting environmental sustainability. By choosing foods that align with our evolutionary history, we can support regenerative agricultural practices, reduce food waste, lower our carbon footprint, and conserve biodiversity. As we face the pressing challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, adopting sustainable dietary practices like ancestral eating can make a meaningful difference.

By making informed choices and advocating for broader systemic changes, we can contribute to a healthier planet for future generations. So next time you plan your meals, consider the benefits of eating like our ancestors – it’s a choice that’s good for you and the Earth.


  1. Lal, R. (2020). Regenerative Agriculture for Food and Climate. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 75(5), 123A-124A.
  2. Stanley, P. L., Rowntree, J. E., Beede, D. K., DeLonge, M. S., & Hamm, M. W. (2018). Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems, 162, 249-258.
  3. Teague, W. R., & Barnes, M. (2017). Grazing management that regenerates ecosystem function and grazingland livelihoods. African Journal of Range & Forage Science, 34(2), 77-86.

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