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We write all kinds of things for all kinds of brands, but it’s burgers and rosemary salted chips that got us thinking. Since we worked on this project for Honest Burgers, we haven’t looked at fields in the same way. We now play ‘Industrial Farming I Spy’ – and it’s everywhere.

Honest Burgers are changing everything about how they source their meat. They’re not just namedropping a farm or two on a chalkboard – they’re completely changing the farms they work with and the fields the cows graze on, right down to the soil. For a company that makes burgers in 40+ restaurants it’s a big deal. So Honest asked us to sum up everything they’re doing.

There’s a name for all this: regenerative farming. It doesn’t roll off the tongue – it’s a subject with a language of its own – and it doesn’t help that people have different takes on it too.

But by far the biggest challenge Honest are up against is greenwash. When you can buy “carbon neutral falafel” in the supermarket and there are “carbon positive” stickers on menus in restaurant chains, it’s hard to show what Honest are doing is genuinely different. 

COULD DO BETTER: From the start, we wanted to set Honest apart from the greenwash brigade. Honest didn’t want to gloss over how hard it is for a burger company to cut its carbon, and they didn’t want to dodge any difficult questions. So we dealt with everything head-on in a “we don’t have all the answers” tone. (Photo above: Honest Burgers.)
This project is as much about shaking up Honest’s supply chain, as it is talking about the quality of the soil. Regenerative farming is a knotty subject to write about but, put simply, Honest are changing how they work from top to bottom, right back to the farmers and their cows.
Regenerative farming is a BIG subject that needs some context: why is it different and what’s wrong with the way we’ve been farming up to now, anyway? It’s easy to go down a lot of rabbit holes and lose sight of the bigger “what’s that got to do with what’s on my plate?”
picture. We always brought it back to Honest.
We broke the big subject down into three themes, putting BEEF (using the whole cow and why it matters) alongside FIELDS (regenerative farming and how it’s fixing a broken system) and FARMERS (why Honest is working with them directly and making it worth the farmers’ while).
As ever, this was a thinking job as much as a writing one. Splitting Honest Farming into three themes sounds like it was simple enough – it wasn’t. If you’ve ever tried summing up anything about the environment or sustainability, you’ll know the score. But once we had the structure, everything fell into place. And it’s helping the team at Honest talk about what they’re doing in a clear way, both online (above) and on social.

This is the second book we’ve written for Honest. For this one, we also put together a style guide with tips about how to keep writing about Honest Farming. Farming has its own language (“ruminants” are cows and sheep to you and me). As does sustainability (“emitting and sequestering carbon”) and restaurants (“supply chains”, “operations” and so on). You won’t find those words here.  

Above all, the biggest thing we’ve been working with Honest on is how to make sure this doesn’t sound like another case of a brand talking themselves up and overclaiming things. “Carbon neutral” is the easier snappier, sell – most people get it these days. But what Honest are doing is more fundamental than that. It has the potential to properly change how restaurants – especially big brands in lots of places – source food for good.

You can read our book in an Honest near you or keep up with what they’re doing on the Honest Farming website.

The book was designed by Connie Barton at Studio Connie.