LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
Let food be thy medicine! Farmers hold the key to our health: how do we pay them for it?
What is the real impact on your health of what you eat? And, maybe more important, how that food has been grown or, in case of animal protein, what those animals have eaten? How can we maximize nutritional and environmental quality while maintaining the health of our animals and the food we eat?
This deep dive into nutrient density on how Pierre Weill, co-founder of the non-profit organization Bleu-Blanc-Coeur, created a 2b euro a year certification program, paying farmers more for better quality food. Starting with the simple (but very complex) concept: farmers hold the key to our health and if we don’t change the practices in the field we need to find chemical medicines.
Starting from the Soil
Pierre shares what has led him into the interest of working in agriculture and deciding to dedicate his life in the industry and to Bleu-Blanc-Coeur, which started from focusing on the soil instead of the animal’s and human’s health.
“So the link between harmony, nature, the environment, and the balance in our body did exist. After relating this, we just measured the impact of the renewed balance of the animal host and the human host. I like to talk about this nice story on a daily basis. This was not always exciting. When you have a look at the last thirty years, it was very exciting because we did a lot of research work on balancing the soil, balancing the animal diet, and balancing the human diet.” – Pierre Weill
Changing the Composition
The first step Pierre and his team worked on was the impact on the cow’s fertility and how the nutritional quality of the animal diet can enhance better human health. They underwent through a clinical trial in order to determine how and where this all affects the human body. This later on proved how the saying “you are what you eat” as well as “you are what the chickens/pig/cows ate”.
“We’re very strong in terms of statistics. We completely changed the composition, not only in the blood, but also of the composition of the red blood cells. Which means all the cells of the body change. Not according to the human regimen, but according to the animal diet.”- Pierre Weill
Making Measurement Easy
Pierre discusses the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur fatty acid profile and how this has contributed into making measurements easy. He continues to discuss why farmers have been resistant to changing the systems through the years. However, he shares that these same farmers are adapting to the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur aggregation of results and earning in the process. The hope is to build a system that can benefit the farmers and help them get the income they deserve.
“When you deal with public health and the climate, you cannot say that you do it only for the 10% of the people who can buy it. You have to do it for everybody. So the accessibility we did see is quite interesting for tomorrow. Of course, we incorporate new demand about animal welfare and the link to the local production, etc. But we wanted the farmer to be paid for it.” – Pierre Weill
Taking Care of Produce
Pierre discusses the importance of taking care of the meat that is produced, whether this may be chickens, cows, pigs, etc. It’s not about consuming less meat but rather taking care of how your meat is produced. This can have great benefits in human health and animal health as well.
“I don’t say you have to, we have to eat less meat and less product for sure. But we also, at the same time, have to take care of the ways meat and animal products are produced. It’s the same for nutrition. And it’s not only a consumer behavior. The farmer behavior is just as important as the consumer’s behavior. They hold the key.” – Pierre Weill
Other important points discussed
Koen and Pierre discussed these points in this episode:
- Pierre Weill’s dream today
- What Pierre thinks is the connection between Omega-3, Omega-6, and human health during Covid-19
- The reason why Pierre is thought of as the Robin Hood of agriculture
- What Pierre would do if he were to wake up with €1 Billion in his bank account tomorrow morning
To know more about Pierre and Bleu-Blanc-Coeur and how you can improve the nutritional and environmental quality in your food, download and listen to this episode.
Pierre Weill is a French agronomist works since 1970 in the breeding sector. In 1992, he creates his own company: Valorex on a “new feeding concept” far from the dominant “corn-soy” system. This was the starting point of a nice adventure with a lot articles in the scientific press describing experiments involving the link between animal feeding as well as the environmental effects of breeding activity.
The strong link between forage choices – soil quality – animal and human health – Life cycle assessment of balanced food chain is the basis of creation of the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur NPA in 2000, an organization whose goal is to promote responsible agriculture with the objective of improving the nutritional and environmental quality of food.. Today, more than 7000 farmers, 1500 physicians, 1000 food and Feed companies + chefs, scientists, consumers, etc. are members of the various association’s sectors.
Bleu-Blanc-Coeur (Healthy farming association), active in 12 countries is supported by French state as well as United Nations. Since 2012, Pierre is also president of the “Valorial” cluster a group of 300 organization from economic and academic world which work on “tomorrow’s food and feed”.
Website: Bleu-Blanc-Coeur International
Linkedin: Bleu-Blanc-Coeur International
- Clinical studies
- Pierre’s interview with John Kempf
- John Kempf, what would he do with a 1 billion dollar investment fund?
- Nobel 1982 medicine omega 3 /6
- Dan Kittredge – Making farmers focus on nutrient dense food
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW
people, farmer, omega, soybean, bleu, eat, coeur, blanc, ratio, started, linseed, milk, euro, france, methane, important, animal, produce, measure, eggs
Pierre Weill, Koen van Seijen
Koen van Seijen 00:02
Welcome to another episode of "Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: Investing as if the Planet Mattered", a podcast show where I talk to the pioneers in the regenerative food and agriculture space to learn more on how to put our money to work to regenerate soil, people, local communities and ecosystems while making an appropriate and fair return. Why am I focused on soil and regeneration? Because so many of the pressing issues we face today have their roots in how we treat our land, grow our food and what we eat. And it's time that we as investors, big and small, and consumers start paying much more attention to the dirt / soil underneath our feet.
Koen van Seijen 00:40
In March last year we launched our membership community to make it easy for fans to support our work. And so many of you have joined as a member, we've launched different types of benefits exclusive content Q&A webinars with former guests, ask me anything sessions plus so much more to come in the future. For more information on the different tiers, benefits and how to become a member, check gumroad.com/investinregienag or find the link below. Thank you.
Koen van Seijen 01:06
Welcome to another interview today with Pierre Weill co-founder of Valorex and Bleu-Blanc-Coeur. Bleu-Blanc-Coeur is an association created in 2000 to promote a responsible agriculture with the objective of improving nutritional and environmental quality of our food. In order to feed humans well, it's necessary to start by looking after our crops and the health of our animals. This is the founding principle. Of course, we have a lot to discover here. So the association brings farmers, companies, doctors, scientists and consumers, that's a mouthful, together. And it has a presence worldwide, although it was born in France. Welcome Pierre.
Pierre Weill 01:38
Koen van Seijen 01:38
So we met through and, or we met virtually through an interview of John Kempf, which I'll definitely link below, but I would love to for anybody that didn't listen to that, to have a short introduction, first of all, to you like what brought you to agriculture? And of course, then we unpack Bleu-Blanc-Coeur and we'll dive deep into a lot of things from omega three to six due to diet of animals to methane, etc. etc. But first of all, what brought you to agriculture and to spend your working life in that?
Pierre Weill 02:06
I decided to go to agricultural studies when I was very young, because it's a question of a family history etc. So I became an agronomist in the 70s and my first job was in animal production. It was a period of intensive agriculture and it was not my roots, it was not the way we produce it at this time. Pigs, milk, eggs, etc. was not exactly the way I dreamed when I was young. And in '92 with five friends we created the company an animal nutrition company name is Valorex and it started with an idea that we have to be less dependent of the soybean importation from America, from Brazil and from the United States because of agronomy. Just to create balance in the soil. To produce more protein seeds in France, less corn. To have balanced diet for animals using protein seed is better for the soil. So we started from the soil, because when you use a protein seeds, like lupien, house bean, peas etcetera, faba you put nitrogen in the soil from the air. So it's less fertilizer, a lot of nitrogen remaining the soil for the wheat you do after it. It's exactly what I learned in the agricultural studies in the first year, doing rotation, during one year you make pea and after alfalfa, and after you produce wheat, etc. And well this is very real, nothing new, but just to recreate the link. So to be short we also use technology to cook the seed because these crude seeds are not very digestible for the animals.
Pierre Weill 03:56
And we started. We started to say to breeders, to farmers, okay, it's more expensive that soybeans, than important soybean but maybe it's better for you for the soil for the animals, etc. And the farmers are technical people. They don't believe you if you don't have a lot of proofs of data. So we published our first paper in the scientific press in '95. We created the company in '92 and in '95 it was the first paper with the French National Research Institute for Agronomy and it was an improvement of the fertility of the cow. When you use this mix of lupind pea and linseed, compared to soybean we improve this activity which is quite important for a dairy farmer and somebody in the research institute had an explanation based on the fact in grass and linseed you have omega three fatty acid and in corn and soybean you have more omega six fatty acid, the balance between omega six and omega three was important for the fertility of the cow.
Koen van Seijen 05:06
And just to go back one step, because when you said the first years of studying agriculture, it was about these rotations, it was about the local legumes, etc. for the feed and then sort of when you started working, the soybean import started, that was more or less the moment or the period where a lot of these imports started and you mentioned, you weren't very happy with that, that triggered starting your own company, is that correct?
Pierre Weill 05:32
Absolutely correct, yeah.
Koen van Seijen 05:33
Starting from the soil, not necessarily from the health of the animal? Or also the health of the animal.
Pierre Weill 05:38
We started from the soil. And there was an event, only old people like me remember that in the 70s, there was a U.S. embargo on soybean and for all the French farmers it was terrible because the price of the soybean increased so much. And so they started and we started realizing that maybe producing an algae crop in Europe and protein crops from from the U.S. or from Brazil is not a good solution.
Koen van Seijen 06:09
It's risky, yeah. And so the omega three-six ratio is something we're going to come back to a few times but so this person in this research institute basically, accidentally started the movement, because this is something you didn't know. You found out that that might be the case why the fertility of these cows was improving, because it's the ratio not necessarily the quantity of omega three and six, that is important, if I understand correctly, but please explain a bit why is this ratio omega three and six so important for the cow or the animals in general, and also us?
Pierre Weill 06:44
Okay, so I'll go back to a Nobel Prize in '82. In '82 the Nobel Prize was attributed to three researchers, two Swedish and one English. It was about something that was a surprise for them in their research, you know, involving the human body. It was a nobel prize for physiology and human medicine. In the bodies is of course a lot of antagonist molecules. For instance, you have some molecules like insulin, stored the sugar in the body in the cells. And as the molecules like, I don't remember the name, some molecule disturbancing the sugar and the balance is always important. But what was funny was the omega six and omega three, they have to work in a certain balance, but we don't synthesize them. The insulin is synthesized by men, but not the omega six, not the omega three. And the ratio between omega six and omega three is very important for inflammation. For instance, omega three are roughly I will guess pretty anti inflammatory omega six are pro inflammatory molecules. Same for the aggregation. The platelet aggregation, omega six are pro aggregation, omega three are anti aggregation. Same for the fertility, you need some prostaglandin for the cycle at a certain moment. We're back to the cows. For the fertility of the cow, you need omega six at a certain moments, you need omega three at another moment. But when there is an unbalance in the diet of the cow, as well as in the diet of the man, then the problem okay, we started with this little...
Koen van Seijen 08:33
Anecdote basically, yeah.
Pierre Weill 08:33
...little door on the fertility of the cow but the story is always the same. Like at this time in '95, the unbalance doesn't come from the body, the unbalance comes from the diet, come from the plate if you are man, or come from the balance. When a cow eat grass, we use linseed, we decided to use linseed, which is not a protein seed, because we knew that the fatty acid of linseed are the same that the fatty acid of grass, but we didn't know the properties, it was just a way of thinking that it's the same that in grass. And in corn and soybean it's not the same. Corn and soybean are quite rich in omega three. So the link between harmony in the nature and the environment and balance in our body did exist. After in the cities we just measure the impact of a renewed balance on the, I don't know how else, universe? And so the soil so set the way I like to talk about this nice story on a daily basis. It was not always exciting. But when you have a look at this last thirty years, it was very exciting because we did a lot of the work of of research work on balancing the soil balancing the animal diet and balancing. You know
Koen van Seijen 10:00
And when did you, because you opened this small door on the ratio of omega three-omega six, which is absolutely crucial because you would sort of think omega three is good for you omega six is bad let's get as much, but it's not the case you need both in limited quantities, but you need, especially the right ratio. But you saw that in a cow, and you started in fertility ratio, and you thought, okay, that's interesting. You start probably changing your feed and changing the feed you're selling as a company. But that's quite a step to go from there and building a successful company to help dairy farmers work with their fertility and improve, to go from there to you what it means for us. Where was that step? Where did you open the second door, basically, to human health?
Pierre Weill 10:42
So let's go back to '92. I created the company in '95. That's the first trial with the impact and fertility of the cow, and so still discussing. I'm used to say when you are in the research area, you do an experiment but because you have a question and you expect an answer. In January, at the end of the experiment, you have a half of an answer, and two or three new questions. At this period, you say "oh okay". At this time internet didn't exist, do I go to the library of the university and I read a lot of things on omega six, omega three, the balanced, etc. And we have the idea of saying "Well, if it's important for the cow maybe the nutritional quality of the milk can also be enhanced and better for human health. So in '97 we started with this National Research Institute a big experiment on the impact of animal feed on nutritional quality of the milk, the egg, meat etc. and we published it. But then I met - a second funny story - I met a cardiologist in the congress and he told me "Well, it's interesting what you do, but not so much, because of course, you have more omega three in the egg or in the milk, but what will happen when the men eat the egg or drink the milk? Will this interesting omega three will be used by the metabolism? Or they will be oxidized as a common source of energy". You cannot say anything, any claim.
Koen van Seijen 11:31
So you proved that you could change through the feed of the animal, you proved you could change the ratio to get to the ideal ratio in an egg, in the meat, in the milk but this doctor was saying "what does it do to us?", yeah.
Pierre Weill 12:37
We knew we improve the ratio in the plate but what happened in the body? You have to do a clinical trial.
Koen van Seijen 12:44
Sounds funny, yeah.
Pierre Weill 12:44
A clinical trial, we were a small company of 20 people so we found the money, we were funded by the French state and the local government of Brittany and we did this clinical trial. This was probably the most exciting period of my professional life, because nobody knew what will happen. We took two groups of volunteers, healthy volunteers, to group of 40 people, and they receive exactly the same diet, same quantity of egg, butter, meat, cheese, etc. And we did blood samples. Only the animals had not the same diet. When we read the paper, it was difficult because so we said diet for the animal diet and regimen for the human regime, to be clear. So it was the same human regimen with different animal diet. And we did blood samples to the volunteers every two weeks. And after only one month, it was a double blind crossover trial, very strong in terms of statistic, we completely changed the composition not only of the blood, but also of the composition of the red blood cells, which means all the cells of the body change not according to the human regimen, but according to the animal diet. So two steps longer in the food chain, there is a strong influence on the composition.
Koen van Seijen 14:09
You are what you eat, or what you ate, ate.
Pierre Weill 14:11
Yeah, we are not exactly what we eat we are also what the chicken eat. What the chicken you eat have eaten before. Yeah.
Koen van Seijen 14:18
Pierre Weill 14:20
So that was fantastic and that was the second step of my professional life because with the investigator that the medical doctor who did the study, and then my friends from the research institute, we said it's fantastic in terms of public health, because usually nutrition - lets say before us - utrition was eat more that and less that.
Koen van Seijen 14:46
Eat more broccoli, eat more kale, eat less blah, blah, blah. Yeah. But you proved that it's not more that it's how it's grown that actually influences the outcome.
Pierre Weill 14:57
So it opened new doors in terms of public health that what say my friend. And they convinced me not to continue in a company project but I remember they said "you can say you improve the public health but you will do it only you and you will not invite your competitors to do it. If you speak of a climate or public health you cannot do it alone".
Koen van Seijen 15:27
You cannot keep it in a for profit, in a company, you need to open it up.
Pierre Weill 15:31
Yeah. So we created this Bleu-Blanc-Coeur association after the first clinical trail.
Koen van Seijen 15:35
And where are you now? Like 20 years later Bleu-Blanc-Coeur is massive. You're in many different countries. But just to give an idea, what is Bleu-Blanc-Coeur? And where are we in 2020 in terms of impact? Because it's been an enormous impact, especially in France, and Belgium and other countries you are starting now, but especially your home countries, it's a really big movement.
Pierre Weill 15:56
Yeah, it's probably because we had no money at the beginning. So we created...
Koen van Seijen 16:01
We hear that a lot in this podcast, that you get very creative if you have no money at the beginning.
Pierre Weill 16:07
Probably if I did this job in a big pharmaceutical company, probably it will not be the same. So we started with an association, it's quite complicated to go from the, let's say, from the cow to the consumer. If you take in all the countries of the world, in the stores you have what they call omega three milk. Omega three milk is usual milk from a factory and you put two drops of a fish oil inside. It is very easy to do in from the industrial side. But for us, it was more complicated because you have to separate the milk coming from grass fed cows from the milk coming from the corn-soy fed cows. Industry people don't like.
Koen van Seijen 16:52
It has to be a completely separate product basically. It has to be the whole chain. Because the milk cannot be mixed with other milk because you lose your health qualities.
Pierre Weill 17:00
Exactly. So of course, the dairy companies didn't like the idea, because the cost was so important. So we created the association with seven sectors. The plant produces, people of linseed, alfalfa, lupine, etc. One member is a company or cooperative or association. So the plant producer, then the breeders, then the animal nutrition company, all my competitors, Velorex competitors at this time. Then the processors, which means dairy companies, meat companies. Then the retailer and the last one was the consumers. I forgot one, the seventh was the on-farm processes, that were farmers, processes etc. And this was the first pillar. The second pillar was what we call the communities, the consumers, farmers, medical doctors, chef is quite important in France, but without any economic interest in this study. And a third one was the scientific board. And all these three pillars send their people to the administration council. It was very interesting to learn, to hear from the others. I think in my professional life, one of the most difficult thing was to break the walls between a scientist and a farmer, between a consumer and a medical doctor, etc. Everybody, I know it sounds in English, but in French there was a writer Kennedy, he talked about the tailorization of the suit. Everybody do well in his own compartment.
Koen van Seijen 18:45
Nobody makes a full suit.
Pierre Weill 18:47
All these people discussing together, it was very interesting. So this was the creation. The governance was very important. And today in France, it's between five to ten percent of the different animal sections. Ten percent of all the pig produced in France, seven percent of the eggs, etc. etc. Now, we have also white fish. I learned a lot of things when you think there is a lot of omega three in the sardine. But it depends when it's fished, it depends when, where. It depends on the oil you used to cook the sardine etc.
Koen van Seijen 19:26
Like always, it's not eat more sardines, it's what kind of sardines, where are they caught, how etc. Just to unpack one piece, I mean there's so many things to unpack, but just when you mentioned the vegetable proteins, the growers of that, and the grass fed cows, these are like this supplement they get? Or how? Like are the cows, or many of these guys are 100% grass fed? Or how does that work for the simple non farmer listening to this? Like why do they need lupine or flaxseed or something else that you mentioned?
Pierre Weill 19:55
Well, thank you, that's a very important point because the more important things to my eyes it's the measurement. Once you said the scientific board of Bleu-Blanc-Coeur say, okay, Bleu-Blanc-Coeur milk it's with a ratio of omega six omega three of one to one. So after we the farmer can choose the better way for him to produce this milk. The obligation of result.
Koen van Seijen 20:25
Which is key just to iterate that again. The obligation of result is something that sets it apart from almost any other certification body, like organic is based on practices, but not on results. Most other things fair trade, etc. are based on practices and not on results. This is like I'm a farmer, I have chickens and I grow, they lay eggs and I'm only certified if my eggs contain this and this ratio of omega three to six, because that's what you're looking for. And it's a very, I mean, there could be many other things but the omega three to six is a very good trigger, because it shows everything else basically, that I've been doing around the chickens. And it's very difficult to cheat with. But I need to show this results. Otherwise, I cannot be called Bleu-Blanc-Coeur eggs, yeah.
Pierre Weill 21:10
And you know, the marketing people love claim like free range eggs. Free range eggs, you see a lot of grass or the egg box but not in reality. When you analyze the egg, the ratio between omega six and omega three, at least in France, it's about 40, 30. For Bleu-Blanc-Coeur eggs its five. When it's like you're sure I have laying hens in my garden. I know when I give them grass, when I cut grass that I give them that the ratio of omega six two omega three is one to one. When you gave the cooked lins seat to the laying hens, you have the same ratio five to one.
Koen van Seijen 21:54
So just as like free range organic, I mean, you call it somewhere I think it needs to be returned, like if they get organic soy, obviously you can call them organic eggs. But they're like an inflammation bomb basically if you buy the normal ones you buy in the supermarket because they don't have the obligation of result, they don't meet that ratio of three to six that you need or that your farmers need to show.
Koen van Seijen 22:16
And we discussed with some grass fed the organization in the world, it's quite complicated because we - I think it's fantastic grass fed but if you have the obligation of results, if you have the measurement, its better. Of course, it will give an added value to the product its grass fed, great. And because it's grass fed, you have a good omega six omega three ratio in the egg or in the meats or in the milk. But sometimes it's difficult because the people have in mind that the obligation of means description is enough. We don't think so. We have people in Bleu-Blanc-Coeur... When I started Valorex it was 100% organic. So I know quite well from people of the organic movement. And we say we have the same vision, we have a lot of people that produce organic and Bleu-Blanc-Coeur. We say in the toolbox we need to have some obligation of means is something, obligation of results is something else and if you can have the two together it's fantastic.
Koen van Seijen 23:23
And is it easy to measure this ratio three to six? Because that's something I mean, it's amazing to have obligation of results if it's easy to measure for me as a farmer, or if it's incredibly expensive. I'm not going to be playing with the one to five ratio, I'm not going to be buying different seeds. I'm not going to be changing my management, because it's too difficult basically to get that done. But in this case, is it easy?
Pierre Weill 23:45
Yeah it's easy. You mentioned in the people you interviewed our common friend Dan Kitteredge in the US and we discuss a lot about making the measurement easy. It's a fantastic tool! If you can measure today for Bleu-Blanc-Coeur fatty acid profile it cost in the lab with the official test it cost about 150 euro for one sample, a little less. But we developed spectroscopy we did research on solar technology, because we think tomorrow it will be less and less expensive.
Koen van Seijen 24:23
I bought the device the Nutrient meter when it came out. Yeah, the first version, the 3D printed one.
Pierre Weill 24:29
Well, it's not expensive and it will be less and less.
Koen van Seijen 24:32
But it's key!
Pierre Weill 24:33
But it's so so different if you, farmers listen to us, once you say that's the objective, set the obligation of results, after do what you want. Not exactly everything, we also have a obligation of means, we have for instance all the additives, the chemical additives is forbidden but you can choose grass, you can choose lin seed, you can choose alfalfa, you can source all the source of omega threes correct for you. And it's fantastic to see that the farmers changing the systems from year to year to adapt to the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur obligation of results.
Koen van Seijen 25:14
And you're getting stricter or not? Like it's a moving, 20 years ago or what is the result and the obligation of means? Do I need to keep improving as a farmer? Are you making it more tricky? Or do you want me to keep improving my practices?
Pierre Weill 25:29
We change all the time. After discussion between the consumer, the farmers. The price is very important because we, once again when you deal with public health and climate, you cannot say I do it only for the 10% of the people who can buy it, you have to do it for everybody. So the accessibility we did see is quite interesting for tomorrow, but of course, we incorporate new demands about animal welfare, linked to the local production, etc. But we want the farmer to be paid for it. And second, the consumer have an accessibility to this product. We have an agreement with the French government, which is not bad. They encourage, they say you can write the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur is supported by the French Ministry of Health, Environment and Agriculture. But we have to prove that the over-cost is not over 5% of the same product.
Koen van Seijen 26:26
So basically, when I want to buy an egg, or let's say a piece of meat of a pig, the difference in price between conventional let's say relatively extractive, soybean-grown, etc. and Bleu-Blanc-Coeur certified is maximum 5%.
Pierre Weill 26:41
Yeah. And it generates less.
Koen van Seijen 26:43
Which is amazing. Yeah.
Pierre Weill 26:45
Can I say what what is my dream today?
Koen van Seijen 26:48
Pierre Weill 26:50
I think that measurement is the first keyword for Bleu-Blanc-Coeur. The second is accessibility. So we did with this 5% maximum over cost during this last 20 years. And in 2016, we created a fund to encourage the what we call the agro environmental transition. The idea is to receive money for the fund, which is directly given to the farmer, according to the quantity of CO2 reduction is his prediction. So measurement, we measure this reduction, and the farmer receive money directly from companies, for instance, telephones company, banks, etc. to say simply that, maybe it's too simply but today the rich people they buy, they are concerned, at least in France, by health and enviornment. When I was young, the rich people were fat. And the poor people were not. Today its the opposite.
Koen van Seijen 27:57
The other way around, yeah.
Pierre Weill 27:59
So these people who don't really need this higher quality product, they have the money to buy it and the poor people, they are condemned to what they call in France le premiere prime, the first prize, which is low cost, the food.
Koen van Seijen 28:15
The poverty premium.
Pierre Weill 28:17
And our dream is to use this fund to give money to the farmer. They produce you know, a better quality system, they are paid for it but the price of the product remains the same. The concept with the retailer, chaining funds, are very happy of this because it's the money of the rich people but used to make the poor people eating in very good quality. And if you have not only 10% of the people eat well, but 80% for instance, then you really have an impact on the climate.
Koen van Seijen 28:57
There's so much to unpack in that to start with. Just to give an idea of size of like last year or the last year you have data, Bleu-Blanc-Coeur certified products, what kind of value was that in total?
Pierre Weill 29:11
Well, in euro Bleu-Blanc-Coeur money Bleu-Blanc-Coeur has 25 employees and the money comes from the economical member if they use the collective rent, they pay 0.2% of the products sold with the brand to Bleu-Blanc-Coeur. So we have a budget in Bleu-Blanc-Coeur of something like 3 million euro but the global turnover of the brand last year 2019 was over 2 billion Euro in France and France is about 80% of the turnover. And after 11 other countries in Europe and a few other countries. Two billion euros start to be something...
Koen van Seijen 30:02
Pierre Weill 30:03
Koen van Seijen 30:04
And to unpack the ecosystem service payments you mentioned, you developed actually a measuring framework for methane. Because that's obviously a question immediately people say "Okay, great. Animal protein can be not necessarily medicine, but definitely a prevention tool for inflammatory diseases which are many of our rich world diseases at the moment. But what about the environmental cost? What about the methane?" What about, I mean we are all I wouldn't say brainwashed but definitely bombarded with messages that animal protein is the worst thing you can do, it's worse than buying a Hummer and driving it all day long. So what is it - it's a bad way of setting up the question - but what is your response to like the environmental impact of animal protein? You've done a lot of research and have actually been paying farmers to change their practices by taking rich people's money which I think makes you like the Robin Hood of agriculture. But can you explain that 2016 you got some awards for that as well, and you actually, you started again, with measurement, and how to compensate farmers for this. And this case, it was specifically about the thing we always discuss, which is methane. And again, it came down to feed of animals, which I think is fascinating. But explain a bit that process and how that came about.
Pierre Weill 31:21
Yeah. So maybe I'll come back at the beginning of the story I said, in terms of health and nutrition before Bleu-Blanc-Coeur the only message that was heard was eat more that and less this etc. I think it's the same for environment. Today, the main message is eat less meat, eat more protein seeds, etc. etc. More legumes. It's quite true, but there are also huge difference in terms of carbon footprint, between the different way of production. We started with the methane of the cow. We started in 2001, the first paper was in 2001. At this time you didn't hear so much about climate change but there was another researcher, it was her idea to say she made a little paper, not in a big scientific newspaper. She gave linseed, cooked linseed to goats and she had the idea of measuring the pH in the rumen of the goats, so animal health. To measure the nutritional profile of the milk, so human health. But also to go inside the rumen to measure the methane emitted by the goat and she made a lovely paper about "Is it possible to improve in the same time, food...
Koen van Seijen 32:50
All three, yeah.
Pierre Weill 32:50
Yeah it's fantastic.
Koen van Seijen 32:54
And was it possible?
Pierre Weill 32:56
Yeah, we decrease the methane. And so as you said before, what is important is the measurement. So from a biological point of view, the link between omega three, methane emission, the composition of the milk is very clear. Hundreds and hundreds, maybe not thousands but hundreds of paper and this, when a cow or ruminant or goat etc. eat grass or linseed or alfalfa. She has omega three in the rumen and this omega three as a negative impact on the bacteria that produced methane. From this idea, it was quite easy to build an idea that so you can measure in the milk, the environmental footprint of the milk.
Koen van Seijen 33:46
Ah, without having to measure the methane that comes out.
Pierre Weill 33:49
So we did that with new papers in the scientific press with the link between the methane emission and milk fatty acid composition. The first paper was in 2009. So we saw correlation and we decided to create a method. So we put it to the French Ministry of Environment in 2011. So the experts approved the method then in 2012. And the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, it was approved again. So today, we give money to farmer according to the measurements, which is an indirect with very good measurement. You measure the milk and you know how many grams of methane.
Koen van Seijen 34:36
And what's the difference between like a normal milk I buy that is grown, or even organic but it's grown on mostly soy compared to a Bleu-Blanc-Coeur one where the ratio of omega three and six is big. Like what's the range between those two methane?
Pierre Weill 34:49
From 20% to 30% less methane emission and methane emission is half of the carbon footprint of them.
Koen van Seijen 34:56
Pierre Weill 34:57
Yeah. And we continued. Two weeks ago in France was an official database on the footprint of a different product. And so now they did it for instance for chicken. You have the carbon footprint of a conventional chicken, organic chicken, Red Label chicken, Bleu-Blanc-Coeur chicken. And Bleu-Blanc-Coeur chicken compared to conventional is more than 30% less carbon footprint, which for the reason we don't use important soybean and we use protein seeds. And when you use protein seeds, you use less nitrogen fertilizer. So you produce less nitrogen oxide, which is a very strong warming effect, etc. So to go to the conclusion, it's not only eat less meat, it's also take care of the way meat is produced. If I took my example, eating 30% less chicken, okay, it's interesting, but eating the same quantity of a chicken with 30% less carbon footprint. It's absolutely the same results. And of course, I don't say you have to we have to eat less meat and less animal product tissue, at least in Europe and North America. In the rich countries, we have to eat less. But we also in the same time have to take care of the ways is meat and animal products are produced. It's the same for nutrition. And it's not only consumer behavior to the farmer behavior is at least as important as the consumers behavior.
Koen van Seijen 36:43
They hold the key for our health. Can you say something about a paper that you were working on, I don't know if it came out yet, because you've published many, many. I mean I will definitely link to your research page on the website. But on breast milk, on pregnant women, you were setting it up when John Kempf interviewed you, I don't know if it's already published, but can you say something about that research study?
Pierre Weill 37:05
No it is not published because the experiment is not finished. We have to stop because of this Covid.
Koen van Seijen 37:12
Ah yeah, too bad.
Pierre Weill 37:14
But can I give you? We're starting a new very...
Koen van Seijen 37:19
Yeah, no, no, I mean, this is the one I know but if you have something more exciting then please share.
Pierre Weill 37:22
No, the breast milk was really interesting for me because it's not only the link between, we took mothers, volunteer mothers that practice breastfeeding to the baby and we measure the composition of the milk, of the breast milk, and we measured also the composition of the gut flora of the baby inside the shit of the baby, I don't know the word, the feces. So it's not only a link between what happened in the in the first step of the food chain, to the plate, and to the blood, and the milk of the mother, but also to the next generation, to the baby. But with the Covid story appeared at the beginning of this year at the television, I was watching the television like everybody, and they were talking of the Cytokine Storm and I realized that people don't die from the virus itself they die from what they call the acute respiratory disease syndrome something like that. It's you have too much inflammation, you have too much Cytokine Storm.
Koen van Seijen 38:22
It comes back to the inflammation discussion.
Pierre Weill 38:41
Yeah. And after you look at the what's happening in the world, and you see that countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, but also in Europe, Finland, Portugal, Norway, countries where they eat a lot of fishes with a lot of omega three have not so many victims. Japanese really something interesting because the 10 deaths per million inhabitants when in France we have 450 or 500.
Koen van Seijen 39:18
So you're saying it could be a connection to the omega three omega six. Did you see a lot of - I mean it was actually one of my questions - did you see a lot of extra interest in Bleu-Blanc-Coeur in this discussion as food as prevention, maybe not food as medicine but definitely food as prevention. Like have you seen something shift in in the last nine months, eight months, whatever, when this hit?
Pierre Weill 39:42
Not at all. It's terrible, because everybody who's in front is talking about the new drug, but the new vaccine. It's like in agriculture I'm used to say in agriculture, now it's impossible to say there is a new pest we have to build a new pesticide, but in human health, it's still like that: new pests, new pesticide.
Koen van Seijen 40:02
Wow, so we're behind in human health compared to agriculture.
Pierre Weill 40:06
I think so, I really think so. I had the chance some time to discuss, because so we designed two new clinical trial. One with a patient with symptomatic problem of the Covid and another one with old people in terms of primary prevention. And when I discuss with the hospital, University Hospital in writing my thing, of course the nutrition professor is agree with me, it's an inflammatory disease Covid, it's not only a virus problem. And kill the virus is interesting but reduce the symptoms. He told me what maybe I'll tell you this because I think it's a fantastic. And the reason. This professor of nutrition told me "Pierre you know, the Scorbut, you know the Scorbut disease? It was a the disease for the sailor.
Koen van Seijen 41:07
Ah yeah I know it in Dutch, the sailors that spend basically sailing to Asis at some point started to have serious issues, and they fixed it. But of course, you're gonna probably tell me probably it's different with vitamin C.
Pierre Weill 41:19
Yeah, it's the same story and one sailors then two, three, and one of the soldiers, so they said it's probably an infectious disease and at this time they treated like this. It was in the 16th century, it was a Dutch and then an English doctor that realized that lemon juice, lemon juice, with lemon juice, the symptom disappeared. And of course, lemon juice is not a drug that is exciting and they take two centuries to realize that it was only a syndrome of a vitamin C deficiency. And I think it's this guy said, it's probably the same, of course, there is a virus, there is a disease, that probably the large deficiency, you know not only interesting to say, omega three is interesting, it's interesting for inflammation, but also to say, in France and all the Western countries, we only eat half of our needs in omega three, about 70% of the omega three comes through animal products. And animal were used to eat a lot of omega three through grass, and know that utilit of omega three through corn and soybean, so the deficiency is very high.
Koen van Seijen 42:42
They eat a lot of omega six you mean, now, through corn.
Pierre Weill 42:45
They eat a lot of omega six, yeah sorry, they eat a lot of omega six.
Koen van Seijen 42:48
So we went from a lot of omega three in grasses to a lot of omega six and if you measure our blood now of an average person in France, or in the Netherlands, or in Germany, most of us have the ratio of three to six is completely off. And so your study, these two clinical trials are going to look at people with symptoms. And let's say the elderly that hopefully don't get it, but to prevent or to see if a diet of better ratio is going to help.
Pierre Weill 43:16
The first one with people who are sick it's a 20 days study. Difficult to organize with all the problems of the Covid, but I'm quite sure we'll do it. I really hope it because the results are good. People will see that the solution is not only the new drug or the new vaccine. I will tell you something funny because to finance this tests, this trial, I asked to the French officials, because they had a lot of subsidies money to make clinical trials etc. And so we explained with the university doctors and professors what we want to do, and at the end, they said exactly like if omega three was a drug or a vaccine, they said can we have a look if the French government can have a look on the stores, on the stocks of omega three? And my friends say yes, you have to nationalize all the fishes.
Koen van Seijen 44:23
And the grasslands, yeah.
Pierre Weill 44:25
And the grassland its in the minds of the people when it's human health, it's a drug or a vaccine.
Koen van Seijen 44:33
It's fascinating, yeah.
Pierre Weill 44:34
It's fascinating. So we don't sleep very well, I'm very busy.
Koen van Seijen 44:41
Fascinating and disturbing at the same time, yeah.
Pierre Weill 44:45
People don't accept it for animals. They don't accept it for the lamb but they accept for them to find the solution only on the chemical way. As you say it's fascinating and disturbing. And for me, if I'm optimistic it's a fantastic way to prove what nutrition can do when I discuss with these people, this professor at the University hospitals, they say the problem is nobody's funding a clinical trial of his nutrition. Yes, Danone, Nestle, the big companies, they do it for one molecule they have patented, but not for everybody.
Koen van Seijen 45:25
Not with real food. And that is also not accessible. I want to be conscious of your time and finish with a few questions because I think we can spend and I would love to check in obviously when the results are going to be published on this because I think it's something we all talk about the importance of nutrition and importance of how the food you eat has been grown or what you you ate ate. But to see that actually, in clinical trials, to see it in randomized control ones, to see those results relatively quick. I mean you talked about a month on one of those first trials and to see the impact of some relatively small changes in feed in some cases can have. But I want to switch a bit to the finance or the investment side of things, and ask you a question which may be never thought about until I asked it in the pre interview, but if you wake up tomorrow morning and you have a billion euros in your bank account, but you're an investor, so you cannot give it away, but you have to invest, it could be very long term and could be 50 years, 20 years, whatever you want. How would you invest that 1 billion euros?
Pierre Weill 46:26
So I understand that I cannot take the money and go to the Bahamas with my wife, it's not an issue.
Koen van Seijen 46:32
If you're investments go really well, then you can if you want, but you first have to get to work. What would you focus on?
Pierre Weill 46:39
Probably because it was our last conversation but probably funding clinical trials. Because the nobody does that.
Koen van Seijen 46:49
Which makes it by definition, very, very important. I mean, there's a framework I use to look at that. And like it looks at the importance of the problem. In this case, it's extremely important our nutrition deficits, our nutrition issues. It looks at if it's fixable, which you've shown, but it also looks at neglectdness, like how many other people are doing it, and you're very clear in nobody's looking at clinical trials and nutrition.
Pierre Weill 47:10
No, and why it's so important? Because I think the consumer, everybody in the world, I started with the biology, biochemistry etc. and now I'm very interested in human science like sociology, psychology etc. The consumer they pay more. It's the Omnivore's Dilemma, we are anxious, because if you're a koala it's not very difficult you only eat Eucalyptus, if you're a panda etc. The omnivorous people, we are very anxious about food, and the real question for the consumers behavior, when he changes food, is it good for me? Is it good for my health? If we people are very anxious, they are very lost, we don't know what to do. But if they are really, if we can provide all the proof that yes, if you eat Bleu-Blanc-Coeur...
Koen van Seijen 48:21
Do you think that's enough? Like let's say you finance 100 studies or 1000 studies with a billion dollars or billion euros? How do you, I mean you've done that as well but is that enough to really get this from 10% or to 5% or 7% of the let's say the animal protein in France to get to 60%, 70% 80%? Like is proof enough? Or do we need more than proof? Because you've proven it already. You've showed it?
Pierre Weill 48:47
It's not enough. Your question was about how to use this money. And I'm happy that we can do things without money, but for some kinds of things you really need money. Now, I think we have enough people involved in this question that if we really can bring results that it's linked to human health and they have to take care of this, then they will pay this 5% more for the eggs, for the salad, for everything.
Koen van Seijen 49:19
Because we already do it through medicine. We already do it through our taxes obviously we do it for superfood that everybody suddenly buys for very crazy prices that don't do anything, or a lot. And if you pay 5% and you actually get a health benefit, it seems like a really good deal.
Pierre Weill 49:34
And this is the key. I think the nutritional, the health benefit is the key to pay a little more, a little is the maximum 5% I've said before, but it's enough to change things on the farmer side. And if you received this money, to I talk of the fund etc. if you received this money through the fund that we created. Of course if I have 1 billion euro tomorrow I will probably put it in my fund, and then give it to the farmer to change the way of producing. But going through the consumer interested, I will not have 1 billion Euro every year, so it's to to use it as a transition fund as we do. Of course, not with 1 billion euro, but...
Koen van Seijen 50:20
In the future, in the future yeah.
Pierre Weill 50:21
In the future, I will probably use it for this transition fund. So two things I tried to do correctly. First is probably to fund these nutrition clinical trials to provide the proofs. Second, is to put money in the fund to pay the farmers for the improvements they do in the way they produce with less carbon footprint. And after when once you get the results of the trials, I think you will not need to fund the farmer to produce, the transition is done. And it's probably I hope, I'm still young so will probably see people become attentive to the nutritional and the environmental quality of their food. All kinds of people, not only the 10% of the variable. So clinical trial and the transition fund.
Koen van Seijen 50:45
And when you say fund, because many people hear different things when we say fund, I mean I've interviewed a number of transition funds actually that invest with farmers to transition their practices and then the farmer pays back. In this case, it's a payment but the farmer doesn't pay anything back or did I get that wrong?
Pierre Weill 51:32
No, the farmer they don't pay.
Koen van Seijen 51:34
Okay, so it's a grant to the farmer or it's a payment for ecosystem services coming from this case a rich person because you have a lot of money when you have a billion euros in your bank account, or big banks or telecom companies like you said.
Pierre Weill 51:47
Well, it's a question, I didn't know but I think the two things are important because transition, it's only a transition. At the end, if you have the result of the trial, I think people, because I discussed with people that they eat only free range eggs. Okay, so you take care of the welfare of the of the hens? Absolutely not. But if hens are stressed, they will not give good eggs to me. And that's typical. It's not only Central, I think the real interest of people who pay more it's their own benefits. It's like this, we are not so altruistic as we would like to be.
Koen van Seijen 52:32
It's their own and maybe their familyl, and that's why I'm doing these interviews and focusing on nutrient density because if we can unlock the consumer demand, which you clearly have done with over 2 billion of sales, then because just as a final, I always say final questions, it never is true. But as a farmer, in my interest as a farmer, how much is the extra payment I get? Through let's say I'm raising pigs or eggs, in terms of percentage more or less what it makes it worse for me, but what do I get extra for basically raising it in this way and being tested on results?
Pierre Weill 53:07
Well, I will give you an example, a true example of pig production, which is the number one for Bleu-Blanc-Coeur. To produce a peak is about 100 kilos. And the cost of the of the Bleu-Blanc-Coeur specification, to have the obligation and the results correct is about 2-2.5 euro per pig. No more soybean, no pal moil, linseed, etc. And the average payment for the farmer is between 4-4.5 euro, per pig. So they receive money to be in accordance to the obligation of means and results and they receive what we call an incentive. Because if you produce better quality, you will be more. And with this two extra euro you can do other things for animal behavior for animal welfare or for environment, I don't know. It's the way we did. At the beginning Bleu-Blanc-Coeur brand was not known by the people who didn't pay more for it. And then more and more we can go from 0% overcost to 1, 2, 3 etc. then the farmers receive more money and they can improve things and that's a transition too. I really believe in transition and the question about the way to finance it at the large scale is really interesting.
Koen van Seijen 54:40
And we're gonna unpack that in another podcast. I want to thank you Pierre so much for your time this morning, I know you a lot of other things to do. Thank you first of all so much for your work for sharing. I will link to as much as possible in the show notes below for people to find out more to see if there's a local version of Bleu-Blanc-Coeur in their country and other ways to get involved and to understand more of the connection between what you ate and what you ate, ate on your personal health but also definitely on the planet as a whole. Thank you so much.
Pierre Weill 55:11
Thank you, Koen.
Koen van Seijen 55:12
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6 comments on “Pierre Weill on selling 2b euro a year of animal protein as anti inflammatory food”