How grass-fed animals can save the planet

Many people are interested in the quality of the animals' lives on farms, but also a growing number of consumers are interested in the environmental impact of a cattle farm. At Meat the Farmer, we value our direct relationship with our clients and wish to stay responsive to their ethical concerns.

Contrary to popular belief, the truth is that grass-fed animals (and their poop!) can benefit the planet. Blaming meat for climate change is misdirected, because a generalized vague statement such as this does not take the natural life cycle of all living organisms into account.

A life cycle approach can help us make informed choices. It infers that everyone in the whole chain of a product's life cycle, from cradle to grave, has an obligation and a part to play to take all related effects on the economy, the environment and society into account when choosing what they should eat and where to buy.

What all living creatures have in common is the necessity for food to provide vital life-force energy to stay alive and grow. All of this though, starts with the condition of the soil. Soil health is the constant capacity of soil to function as a dynamic living bionetwork that sustains plants, animals, and humans. This is why it is extremely important to keep our farming soil sustainable. How do we do that?

The best way to build healthy, nutrient-rich soil is to integrate animals into a regenerative farm. All animals excrete waste products. Manure can help plants grow because it enriches the soil that they grow in with essential nutrients for optimum health.

Nicolette Niman, the author of Defending Beef says, “I think the biology of soils needs to become a cornerstone of our focus, rather than the amount of outputs, … “. She upholds that grazing is critical to this process: “I don’t necessarily think we should produce more or less meat; we need to produce it better.”

Grassland soils are a great reservoir for organic carbon. The rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere over the past 100 years resulted in the so-called greenhouse effect. However, plants that grow in healthy manure rich soil plays a substantial role in storing carbon in the soil.

According to a study done by the University of Illinois, in a grass ecosystem over 90 percent of the organic matter produced exists in the roots. The study inter alia concludes that: “Any initiative that supports grassland agriculture will, over the long term, support an effective carbon sink. Grasses use atmospheric carbon as plant tissue building blocks. The unutilized and undecomposed plant tissue (primarily roots) is returned to the soil and becomes part of the soil's carbon pool. This process helps reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. A permanent grassland environment stores more soil carbon than does cropland agriculture.”

By buying grass-fed meats, thus supporting grassland farming, we in effect contribute to a healthier environment for all.

By Nicola van Zijl


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