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Mollie Engelhart’s restaurants have long been a vegan staple in Los Angeles, but she recently made the controversial decision to add meat and dairy to the menu, in a move that has sparked anger and some confusion. 

Now, Engelhart is speaking out about the move and why her opinion on veganism has changed. 

Sage Plant Based Bistro became Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery last month after Engelhart announced the change on social media, sparking furious backlash. Since May 29, Sage has been serving animal products like beef, bison, cheese and eggs. 

She explained in an interview with Fox News Digital that her opinion on veganism has shifted since she opened her first restaurant in 2011. Previously, Engelhart said she thought veganism was what was best for the environment and for the Earth, but after years of research, she now believes that a diet that includes dairy and meat, when eaten responsibly, is actually better for the environment.

“There is a lot of misguided information about the environment, and we get into these silos, and it’s like, ‘I am a conservative, I hate the environment’ or ‘I’m a liberal, I love the environment,’ but I think neither of those are true,” she said. “Everyone needs healthy soil, forget about carbon, credits, windmills, solar panels and Teslas.”

In an Earth Day Instagram message, Engelhart explained the restaurant’s menu would shift its focus to foods grown using regenerative agricultural methods, an approach to farming that prioritizes soil health, biodiversity and natural processes, according to the Regenerative Farmers of America. 

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“We all want to eat healthy food that came from healthy soil that doesn’t have chemicals in it … that’s like a pretty basic desire,” she added. 

Engelhart said she was raised by “hippie” parents and grew up on a vegetarian, mostly vegan diet. Her father is the founder of Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre, which along with Sage, are some of the biggest vegan restaurants in the Los Angeles area.

“We all came to it with a pure heart, thinking that it was what was best for human health and for everybody,” she said. 

Mollie Engelhart (Mollie Engelhart)

Then, over time, she and her father both started farming and came to different conclusions about what was best for both the environment and human health. 

“I had a farm in California, literally, because I was a vegan,” she said. “I thought cow farts were the problem, and then I realized that food waste is this huge issue and it’s putrefying in our landfills.” 

Engelhart said she had a “fantasy” that she could have a sanctuary farm where no animals would ever die, but quickly realized that was not possible.

“I had this righteous view that I was somehow better for not causing harm and my food had just as much harm in it,” she said, quickly realizing that even food she thought was “vegan” was fertilized or manufactured using animal products. 

When she made the decision to move away from the all-vegan menu at her restaurant, she expected an upset reaction, but said she has stayed true to the brand’s mission. 

“My commitment has always been about really clean food,” she said. “I don’t serve impossible burgers, I don’t serve any fake meat, I don’t believe in processed food. So, for me, it’s always been about whole foods and so now I’m adding in whole foods such as eggs and meat.” 

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“I’m still not going to be using processed foods, and I’m still not going to be using chemicals, so I’m staying pretty true to my beliefs and identity,” she added. “I am just doing it from a different angle, which is upsetting to people.”

Engelhart said the “degenerative” farming system, which currently dominates much of the industry, involves too many chemicals, tilling and plowing. 

With regenerative farming, she said the goal is to have no or very little tilling, so there is less soil break-up, more animal integration, which involves allowing animals to graze in between planting crops, greater biodiversity, which is achieved by planting a variety of crops, and fewer chemicals overall. 

Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery

Sage Regenerative Kitchen & Brewery (Mollie Engelhart)

“This is an incredible tool and while everybody’s out there fearmongering and selling solar panels and windmills, there’s like a solution that’s extraordinary for human health, for soil health, for planetary health and for the microbiology of all of our guts,” she said. 

Engelhart admitted that the environment is a divisive topic, but believes the conversation should be about clean water, soil and air, rather than the “esoteric threat that we’re all going to burn up in hell and that we’re the pestilence on the planet.”  

“I do believe that regenerative farming and eating foods from the regenerative farming system, which has to include animal integration, is the most important thing that we can be doing for our personal health and the health of our environment,” she added. 

Engelhart reflected on the “two sides” of the vegan community: One which is really committed to health and the environment, and the other which advocates on behalf of animals. 

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“I believe that the person who cares about their personal health and the environment will probably come around and still be willing to eat at my restaurant,” she said. “I think that the person that’s just like: ‘If you willingly, knowingly kill an animal, you’re a murderer’ … Me and that person, I can’t have a conversation that’s based on any logic.”

Venison Patty Melt

Venison Patty Melt (Taylor Bescoby)

Engelhart said she hopes vegan restaurants and the vegan diet continue to exist.

“If you agree with me 80% or 70%, I’m going to be fine with that, and I want you to be able to have opinions that are different than mine,” she said. “I think all of America, not just in the vegan [community], we’re in this cancel culture world where we think everybody needs to agree with us all the time.” 

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Fox News’ Nik Lanum contributed to this report. 

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