The Beef about Beef: Part 1 Our Role in Climate Change
Hello friends and local food eaters!
Happy New Year! We hope that you all have enjoyed a happy and healthy holidays. We sure did. It’s never easy to get away when you have animals, but this year we were able to travel to visit both of our families.
You savvy consumers have already heard about the harms of feedlot beef, and advantages of buying local and grassfed. Since we started selling our farm products in 2009, we have always made a point to distinguish that we are selling 100% grassfed beef. We’ve done this because there is so much confusion, and, frankly, deception, going on in the meat selling industry.
In thinking about what more we want to share with you about beef, it’s been like opening a can of worms. I’ve been reading all about the history of beef, environmental issues, human and animal health concerns. I even ended up reading Defending Beef, The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, (The Manifesto of an Environmental Lawyer and Vegetarian Turned Cattle Rancher) by Nicolette Hahn Niman, which was a gift from a CSA member (Thanks Jim!).
All of this has been fascinating for me. I feel like I could write a book, and that it would take a few books to explain all the stuff.
What I’m going to do is send out 3 emails about beef, with just a few messages that you may not have heard or thought much about before.
Part 1: Global Warming
Environmental Reasons Why We Should Choose
100% Grassfed Beef
In recent years, there have been articles in The Guardian advising us all to eat less meat to avoid dangerous global warming, and another suggesting that giving up beef will reduce carbon footprint more than cars, says expert. They explain to us that “Agriculture is a significant driver of global warming and causes 15% of all emissions, half of which are from livestock”, and that it is likely to increase.
We know that climate change is real, and a real threat to the future of our planet and its people. Feedlot/confinement beef is a significant part of the problem. As John Robbins of the Food Revolution Network says, “Putting beef cattle in feedlots and feeding them grain may actually be one of the dumbest ideas in the history of western civilization.”
These negative environmental effects are the result of the factory farmed beef industry (along with U.S. government subsidies that make that type of farming possible in the first place), with beef that is fattened on grain in CAFOs, confined animal feeding operations.
100% Grass-fed beef production has totally different environmental impacts.
The work of Allan Savory has shown us that holistic land management, aka carefully managed grazing of livestock has the potential to reverse climate change. I won’t go into the science here, but what this means is that appropriate land management and use of livestock can be part of the solution of reversing climate change. There is a lot of debate on the internet surrounding his findings. Our understanding is that the more organic matter, or carbon, there is in the topsoil, the more that the soil and plants growing in it can sequester additional carbon; the more cows rotationally grazing in a well managed system on those plants and soil, the more carbon goes back to the soil. It becomes a cycle of soil building which reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
With a paradigm shift into working with nature, instead of against it, “grazing livestock can change the world.”
We highly recommend spending a few minutes on Joel Salatin’s TED talk on cows and climate change. He is a sustainable farming pioneer, and an animated and entertaining speaker who is creating world change with his message. He never fails to inspire and inform us.
Andrew Gunther of AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) shares his insights and reactions to the UK’s National Trust report What’s your Beef, which is a highly respected research organization’s analysis of the science behind why grass-fed beef is beneficial for the environment. He concludes,
"Buying high quality, pasture-raised meat, such as that certified by Animal Welfare
Approved, will mean that you are not only eating a healthier product and supporting
family farms who raise their animals using the highest welfare standards in the U.S.,
but you are also helping to protect the planet for future generations.”
We thank you for taking the time to learn the facts about the effects of your food choices. We can all make a difference, slowly but surely, as we change our food system and our world for the better.
Here’s to 2017, and making conscientious decisions about what we are supporting!
~Anna Santini and Brooks Miller