The new bread that experts say is good for your health and the planet

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Wildfarmed is on a mission to bring the British public bread that's better for our health, and better for the environment. (Getty Images)
Wildfarmed is on a mission to bring the British public bread that's better for our health, and better for the environment. (Getty Images)

At its most basic level, you should be able to count the number of ingredients in bread on one hand. Flour, water, salt, yeast or starter. Some may include oil or sugar, but the essential ingredients in bread are simple and recognisable.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a loaf of bread you pick up at the supermarket today wouldn’t contain much more. However, you’d also be wrong.

For example, a medium loaf of soft white sliced bread from Hovis contains not just flour, water, yeast and salt, but also soya flour, a preservative called calcium propionate, three types of emulsifiers, rapeseed oil, and ascorbic acid, a flour treatment agent. Other loaves might include acidity regulators too.

While not all breads that fall into the ultra-processed category are necessarily bad for health, many people are becoming more aware - and more concerned - about what exactly they are putting into their bodies.

But what if there was a loaf of bread that cuts back on ingredients you can’t pronounce, and uses planet-friendly flour?

Wildfarmed, a regenerative flour manufacturer founded by Groove Armada DJ Andy Cato, former TV presenter George Lamb, and former financier Edd Lees, is giving Brits exactly that with the launch of its new ‘life-changing’ loaves, which recently became available in Waitrose.

From left to right: Wildfarmed co-founders George Lamb, Andy Cato and Edd Lees. (Wildfarmed)
From left to right: Wildfarmed co-founders George Lamb, Andy Cato and Edd Lees. (Wildfarmed)

Regenerative farming may sound complicated, but it's actually the way things used to be, before chemical farming became the conventional method.

Experts believe there is huge potential for these nature-friendly methods to help combat climate change and improve food quality. It focuses on improving soil health by minimising the use of chemicals and increasing biodiversity in both flora and fauna on farms.

Wildfarmed began life as a 100-hectare farm in Gascony, France, with Cato bringing in regenerative farming methods to turn the soil biology around.

It was in 2013 that Cato met Lamb while playing a gig in Ibiza. "At the end of that summer I went to his farm and saw what he was doing, and realised the magnitude and potential of it to change things. To regenerate is to restore, renew, rebuild, and the more I realised that, if it’s done properly, this is the silver bullet to a lot of our existential problems."

Wildfarmed's standards require the farms it buys wheat from not to use pesticides, and to adhere to other principles of regenerative farming. (Wildfarmed)
Wildfarmed's standards require the farms it buys wheat from not to use pesticides, and to adhere to other principles of regenerative farming. (Wildfarmed)

Lamb later roped in Lees, and together, the trio began working on wheat production.

Fast forward to the present, and Wildfarmed has grown exponentially. Recently, it featured on Jeremy Clarkson's Amazon Prime TV series Clarkson's Farm. The company buys "population wheat" from UK farmers who agree to grow wheat according to the Wildfarmed Regenerative Standards, which consist of no pesticides applied to the growing crop; companion crops; nutrition based on need; cover crops; and integrated livestock.

As soil health is one of the key tenants of regenerative farming, it means that wheat grown via the farms that work with Wildfarmed could have higher nutritional value. In return, bread produced by Wildfarmed - as well as loaves made in bakeries and restaurants that use its flour - may make a significant difference to our health.

Could something as simple as bread benefit our health and the environment? (Wildfarmed)
Could something as simple as bread benefit our health and the environment? (Wildfarmed)

The reason that soil health is so important in regenerative farming is because of how conventional chemical farming has ravaged the land. Industrial use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers regulate plant growth, which helps the supply chain keep up with demand - but is toxic to the environment and our health.

"The thousands and millions of microbes that are meant to be in every teaspoon of soil are killed off by chemical farming, and any plant grown in that soil will be naturally deficient. You then get caught in a death spiral trying to regulate all of that with chemicals, and all of those pesticides mean you don’t have any above-ground life in those fields," Lamb explains.

Matthew Adams, deep ecologist and holistic environmental manager (BSc) who is also the co-founder and director of Growing Real Food For Nutrition CIC (GRFFN), tells Yahoo UK that the body of evidence on food produced through regenerative farming is small, but growing.

We found that everything that was naturally farmed had higher nutritional valuesMatthew Adams

GRFFN was set up in 2020 and one of its main goals is to explore how to grow, measure and promote the benefits of nutrient-dense foods. "We are trying to understand what food quality and nutrient density it," he says. "In one of our large studies in India, in Andhra Pradesh, we had community nutritionists test crops that were grown using natural farming (also known as regenerative farming) methods, against the same crops using chemical farming.

"We found that everything that was naturally farmed had higher nutritional values. This testing also reflects how efficient a plant is at photosynthesis, [which] can be increased by a factor of three or four times in a typical plant, and that only happens when the plant is in symbiosis with the soil. It’s the biology of the soil that creates this symbiosis."

Adams brings up a quote by the late Lady Eve Balfour, a founding figure in the organic movement and the founder of The Soil Association. "Chemical agriculture is a very expensive way of making water stand up."

Lady Balfour's comment is reflective of how modern fruits and vegetables taste, after years of chemical farming. You may have noticed yourself how things don't taste like they used to - the flavours of popular produce like carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and apples might taste watered down.

Close-up of hand of a senior man holding freshly harvested carrots. Elderly person's hands holding bunch of carrots in the farm.
If we chose food that's grown better, whether it's carrots or bread, we could transform our health. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"My hypothesis is that all humans have an innate ability to know what is healthy for us - but we've lost that connection because our relationship to nature is so broken," Adams says.

"We can sit in a world that seems to be falling apart, and it's hard to know what to do for the best," he continues. "But if you told someone that something as simple as eating a good carrot that's well-grown is what you can do for the best, it's a great way of solving some very large issues by enjoying better food.

"To do that, you need to know who's growing better food. If Wildfarmed is doing that, then we should be supporting them."

Lamb adds that, with Wildfarmed's supermarket offering, they hope to "democratise real food". "Food is a medicine. For too long, food's just been fuel, and that's got us into a hell of a mess. I don't want to be involved in anything that isn't for the mainstream... we've got to meet people where they are, with a product that's made with best practice on our fields and by doing everything we can to get all of those great, big, long words out of the ingredients list.

Wildfarmed has a range of loaves available in Waitrose, with the goal of expanding the offering to other supermarkets. (Wildfarmed)
Wildfarmed has a range of loaves available in Waitrose, with the goal of expanding the offering to other supermarkets. (Wildfarmed)

"We've got to find a middle ground, so that farmers and bakers can be paid fairly, consumers aren't paying extortionate amounts of money or buying stuff that's making us sick, and not buying stuff that's coming from a system that's making the planet sick. In the end, that's detrimental to us anyway."


Regenerative bread:

  • No pesticides applied to the growing crop

  • Environmentally-friendly farming methods

  • Fewer preservatives

  • No emulsifiers

  • More fibre content

Conventional bread:

  • Conventional chemical farming methods

  • More preservatives

  • More emulsifiers

  • Low-fibre


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