Grass-fed cattle and the environment

One of the often cited reasons for limited or eliminating beef from your diet has to do with cattle being net carbon emitters. Grain fed beef emit high quantities of methane, which is one of the worst greenhouse gases. Not only are the grain-fed cows adding to the destruction of the ozone layer, but the methods used to produce commercial cattle feed are also contributing.

A new branch of research in cattle management, however, is finding that cattle raised on well-managed pasture land actual create a net carbon sink. Pastured cattle contribute to removing those nasty greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere!

There are a combination of reasons why grass-fed beef contribute to carbon sequestration. First, pasture land that is grazed, grows more productively (all that natural manure from the cow patties helps). Trees are one of the better known ways to combat carbon emissions, but all plants absorb CO2 to some extent, and grasses are no exception. Second, cattle that are grass fed emit less methane gas, because their bodies are better adapted to eating grass than corn.

There’s a lot to read if you’re interested in finding out more, but this article does a nice job of explaining why pastured cattle can lead to a net negative carbon output:

In Defense of the Cow: How Eating Meat Could Help Slow Climate Change

If you’re interested in numbers, some preliminary research out of Saskatchewan shows that most pastured cattle operations sequester even small amounts of carbon, although some can sequester significant quantities. Solving Climate Change with Holistic Management.

Just one more reason why grass fed is better!