The Science Behind Grass-Fed Beef

In agriculture and all throughout history, meat has always posed some form of problem when it comes to producing it. For one thing, they come from livestock that tend to take up a lot of space, food and water resources. There’s also the problem that both cows and sheep collectively make up half of the entire world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which comes from agriculture itself. It may have worked before but since the world pushed onwards, started getting more crowded and became a whole lot warmer, it’s obviously not working that much now.

As a result, advocates and environmentally minded people started calling for a cutback on the consumption of meat. Researchers however, have found a way that can supposedly satisfy both sides of the spectrum. Better for both the planet and the livestock, they recommended grass-fed beef.

But is it really as green as they say?

Grass is greener on the other side

This type of movement, where livestock spend their entire lives on grass, came from a much larger idea, one where grazing populations are supposedly one of the keys to a better and healthier ecosystem.

“The longer you can manage cattle on a pasture range, the more they can contribute to ecosystem regeneration,” Cory Carman, a fourth-generation Oregon rancher who runs a 5,000-acre grass-fed beef cattle operation, said.

With that in mind however, a number of previous studies stated that grass-fed cattle contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions. That argument is because they gain weight slower, they live longer and therefore produce more methane in the form of belches. On the contrary, grass in pasture ranges usually traps carbon that means it can contribute to fighting climate change.

Still, environmentalists argue that grass-fed beef is much better. After all, according to them, these animals have always evolved to be fed this way. Most of grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. is also imported abroad from places like New Zealand and Australia, where there are wider spaces for pastures and grassland.

The argument with this however, is that due to imports, American farmers may lose their profits in the process.

cattle yard Airborne particulate matter wafting off American cattle yards contains antibiotics, bacteria, and antibiotic-resistant DNA. Reuters