Grass-Fed Beef is not worse for the environment than grain-fed!
By Nasar Ali, Jul 08 2013
In recent months there have been claims that grass-fed beef is worse for the environment than grain-fed. These claims state the following:
- Feeding grain-fed cattle takes up less land; and
- Grain reduced the amount of time it takes for cattle to reach market weight- which in turn results in less water being consumed by the cattle and less methane being produced by the cattle.
We are not refuting any of the above; HOWEVER, to claim that the above results in grass-fed beef being worse for the environment overall is something we CANNOT agree with- and here’s why:
- There are carbon sequestration benefits of raising cattle entirely on grass, due to the water use in grass-fed systems;
- Grass-fed beef has a lighter carbon footprint because of the fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels required to produce the grain for feed lots; and
- Although more methane is produced by grass-fed cattle due to grass being harder to digest than grain, it has been argued that grass that is continually grazed by grass-fed cattle sequesters enough carbon to make up the difference in methane.
In order to explain some of this better- let’s break it down. When cattle and other animals are left to graze on grass, they cut down the blades of grass which results in new growth. As they graze, they also trample, therefore, their manure and other decaying organic matter is pushed further into the soil, making it richer and healthier. Healthier soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of our atmosphere.
Whilst we admit that in order to produce grass-fed beef, it is a longer and more water intensive process that requires more land- it is by no means worse for our environment than grain-fed. Furthermore, from a nature standpoint- let’s not forget that grass is the natural food of cattle- not grain, therefore, feeding cattle grain is going against what was originally intended for them. That aside- grass-fed beef is proven to be healthier than grain-fed- so I’d say that we have a winner all around!