People are calling to reduce meat and dairy consumption because the livestock farming significantly contributes to the greenhouse gas problem. There is also concern that meat consumption would have a detrimental effect on human health.
The reality is that both the footprint and nutritional value of beef and dairy are determined by how it is produced!
Grazers such as buffalo, goats, sheep, camels, giraffes, reindeer, antelope, and bison were present in greater numbers before the Industrial Revolution than they are today. There would be an overwhelming accumulation of methane in the atmosphere during these times….
Methane from livestock farming has a short cycle, meaning that the methane is generally recycled rather than released into the atmosphere. Industrial emissions, on the other hand, end up in the atmosphere much earlier. A similar tendency can be seen in the evaporation of water, which has a short cycle as it evaporates through grasslands (which largely returns as dew at night).
In addition, life cycle assessments show that on properly managed perennial grasslands with good grazing, carbon in the soil is recorded as stable humus. Resulting in more sequestered carbon than is emitted, which easily offsets livestock-produced methane.
It is important to note that not every piece of beef has the same footprint!
The amount of energy required per unit of protein produced from grain-fed beef is approximately 2 times greater than 100% grass-fed beef. This is due to the high energy requirement of fertilizers, concentrates, fuels and grain production.
The gap between grass-fed and grain-fed meat becomes even wider when we take CO2 production into account. Grazers recycle carbon like all living things do. It is not possible for any animal to add 'new' carbon to the atmosphere. However, CO2 emissions from grain-fed meat can be high due to the fossil fuel required for its production, distribution and application.
There are also plenty of health reasons for a return of 100% grass-fed meat. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered “essential fatty acids” because they cannot be produced by the body. It is important that these fatty acids are consumed in balance. Western diets high in grain products and/or vegetable oils such as sunflower, soy and peanut oil and margarines often contain 10 to 20 times more omega 6 than omega 3, a trend that has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, dementia, depression and learning disabilities.
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is found in significant amounts in green food think to grasses, shamrocks and spices. Research has shown that many of the existing health problems we face in the Western world are associated with red meat consumption, mainly related to grain-produced beef. In addition to a better balance of omega fatty acids, 100% grass-fed meat contains 3 to 5 times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared to grain-fed beef.
A carbon friendly businessmodel within the production of beef and dairy is more than possible, it is essential. Good grazing in combination with polycultures is a powerful tool for soil carbon sequestration, methane oxidation, improvement of nutrient cycling, improvement of water retaining properties and the improvement of the biodiversity.
But above all, beef and dairy producers are food producers, which we need, we can't live without! – Grass-produced beef and dairy are healthy and mineral-rich foods with an excellent balance of essential fatty acids.