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In response to my post last week about a new report on the effects of meat production on climate change and the need to eat less meat, Ridge Shinn, a producer of 100% grass-fed beef reminded me that meat has a place in the diet and raising cattle does not have to harm the planet.
The whole point of cattle raising is to graze the animals on land that cannot be used to produce food for people and let them turn grass into edible meat. Raising cattle on grass, sustainably, regenerates the land and reduces carbon emissions.
Shinn summarizes the evidence in comments that he and other sustainable livestock farmers submitted to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
As ranchers and farmers who produce 100% grass-fed beef, we submit that the research on our product is already in. We are already employing techniques that soil scientists have validated since the 1990s. We know that corn is bad for cattle and that corn-fed meat is unhealthy for humans. Therefore we raise our beef on grass and pasture alone. We are managing our pastures and our herds to foster the soil microbes that science has shown to be critical to producing healthy meat, sequestering carbon, restoring soil fertility, and retaining water.
He also sent other useful resources on this issue.
A 2016 scientific paper by WR Teague et al in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation on the role of ruminant animals in reducing carbon footprints.
Incorporating forages and ruminants into regeneratively managed agroecosystems can elevate soil organic C, improve soil ecological function by minimizing the damage of tillage and inorganic fertilizers and biocides, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat. We conclude that to ensure longterm sustainability and ecological resilience of agroecosystems, agricultural production should be guided by policies and regenerative management protocols that include ruminant grazing.
in his new book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlie, a British farmer and former editor of the Ecologist magazine, tears apart the theory that being carnivorous is bad for the planet — and says that eating moderate amounts of meat could be greener than going vegan.
Environmentalists have been giving cows a bad rap in recent years. Between what bovines eat and what they excrete, cattle production emits a lot of greenhouse gas. But if fed solely grass, cows could play a key role in reversing climate change.
I think the arguments are compelling. Animals have a place in human diets when they are raised sustainably and as humanely as possible.
Raising animals this way means fewer of them. We still have to eat less meat—and eat meat of better environmental quality.
We could do this….