How grass fed beef with mob grazing cut greenhouse gases

Posted: February 12, 2010 by Thrivelearning in Grass Fed Beef Cattle
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Now, this takes into account the paradigm that you believe (or tolerate) the idea that some gases can create a “greenhouse effect” and add or detract from global temperatures. Jury is still out – and has been for some time. Another discussion, another time…

But Time Magazine recently did an article covering how some “greenies” on the East Coastal have decided to get into raising beef in order to save the environment. Not just any of these academic megalopolis types, but real bona-fide environmentally-resonsible authors who walk their talk:

None of this would be remarkable if it weren’t for the fact that [these] …are two of the most highly regarded organic-vegetable farmers in the country: Eliot Coleman wrote the bible of organic farming, The New Organic Grower, and Barbara Damrosch is the Washington Post’s gardening columnist. At a time when a growing number of environmental activists are calling for an end to eating meat, this veggie-centric power couple is beginning to raise it.

Turns out that the studies these radical activists are quoting (and I have a great deal more on how bogus thse are in a later post) are actually missing part of the data.

When you spend all that fuel raising corn or other grains, and then all that fuel transporting this grain to feedlots, then coop up animals in unhealthy conditions where their manure ferments and creates more gases – guess what? You’ve just made a ton of all sorts of these gasses to get your beef.

Now, grass fed beef, especially in mob grazing, takes a different approach. Perennial grass consumes these gasses. Beef, when rotated in a managed grazing program (especially in high-density mob grazing) actually stimulate this growth by cropping, fertilizing, aerating, and cultivating that pasture so that it actually gets healthier and lusher – making it grow more and consume more of these “greenhouse gasses”. The article covers this:

“Much of the carbon footprint of beef comes from growing grain to feed the animals, which requires fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, transportation,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “Grass-fed beef has a much lighter carbon footprint.” Indeed, although grass-fed cattle may produce more methane than conventional ones, their net emissions are lower because they help the soil sequester carbon.

When you add that in with local processing (not trucked hundreds of miles), you then cut the net gas level enormously.

You also have to take into account that a lot of the studies producing this data are very, very flawed. But I’ll go into that later.

Some interesting quotes out of this article :

By many standards, pastured beef is healthier. That’s certainly the case for the animals involved; grass feeding obviates the antibiotics that feedlots are forced to administer in order to prevent the acidosis that occurs when cows are fed grain. But it also appears to be true for people who eat cows. Compared with conventional beef, grass-fed is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3s, the heart-healthy fatty acids found in salmon.

But the activist radical vegans will argue that if you don’t eat meat, it will save you eating those hormones and so the greenhouse gasses as well. Time rebuts this:

To Allan Savory, the economies-of-scale mentality ignores the role that grass-fed herbivores can play in fighting climate change. A former wildlife conservationist in Zimbabwe, Savory once blamed overgrazing for desertification. “I was prepared to shoot every bloody rancher in the country,” he recalls. But through rotational grazing of large herds of ruminants, he found he could reverse land degradation, turning dead soil into thriving grassland. (See TIME’s special report on the environment.)

Like him, Coleman now scoffs at the environmentalist vogue for vilifying meat eating. “The idea that giving up meat is the solution for the world’s ills is ridiculous,” he says at his Maine farm. “A vegetarian eating tofu made in a factory from soybeans grown in Brazil is responsible for a lot more CO2 than I am.” A lifetime raising vegetables year-round has taught him to value the elegance of natural systems. Once he and Damrosch have brought in their livestock, they’ll “be able to use the manure to feed the plants, and the plant waste to feed the animals,” he says. “And even though we can’t eat the grass, we’ll be turning it into something we can.”

As I’ve said, there’s a lot more to bring to light in this area. I hope to do more this week on this, as the research has been stacking up and needs an outlet.

For now, check out the Time article and decide for yourself.

  1. […] How grass fed beef with mob grazing cut greenhouse gases […]

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  6. Luffie says:

    Amazing to find your site. I always suspected these guys who were saying that grass fed beef put out more methane than others. Like they are trying to get us to just quit eating beef altogether. Cute idea. Won’t work.

    Now I’m interested in finding more about this. Hope you keep posting along this line. It’s always good to hear from a real farmer.

    Contact me:

  7. […] How grass fed beef with mob grazing cut greenhouse gases – A Midwest Journal […]

  8. Yvonne says:

    Good article, thank you. I had no idea that beef was that good at improving the environment.

  9. Justin Potthoff says:

    Growing and consuming organic foods, such as grass fed beef, was the normal way of life for our forefathers. Most people are not aware that synthetically packaged foods (made with synthetic ingredients and chemicals to prolong the preservation process) really only came around in the mid 1900s and really spread during WWII as assembly-line processing ramped up production. Today, many smart consumers are returning to this healthier practice of eating fresh and organically grown foods where the production process is devoid of non-organic pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. When we all get onto real grass-fed beef, we can even drop the “organic” government label as superfluous. The start is, as you say, farming with the land instead of just from it.

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