Why Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb - Part 2, Environmental Benefits
In consideration of the impacts of grass-fed beef, we will consider both the positive benefits to the environment, through the use of holistic farming and grazing practices we can actually heal the land and the environment as well as the important goal of stopping the negative impacts that conventionally fed beef can cause to the environment.
When we talk about holistic grazing practices, we are talking about managing the whole. We consider the land, the grass and the needs of the livestock to help develop a plan to maximize all three to the detriment of none of them. The land and the dirt needs cover and microbes so we need to insure we provide that type of habitat. The grass needs to go through a whole 30-45 day reproductive cycle to flourish. The cattle need to graze before the grass browns and dries while its at its most nutritious. The timing of our grazing plan needs to incorporate the seasons as well. I can grow 12"-16" of grass in 3 weeks in May but would take 6 weeks in August. It is not my intent to teach you how to do a grazing plan, but to explain to think holistically and to incorporate all of the environment the land, the grass and the livestock to build a balanced plan. We use techniques such as rotational or strip grazing and move some groups of cattle daily. To execute these plans to maximize productivity as well as minimize the impact on the land. We also do multi-species grazing to take full advantage of natural diversity.
I want to include a copy of a TEDTalk from Allan Savory. It is a 22 minute video that explains how livestock can be used holistically to heal our earth as well as maybe the ONLY way to combat climate change and the desertification of earth. It is a revolutionary talk that I really enjoyed and hope you do as well, it is well worth your time.
Wow!! You can eat a strip steak and fight climate change. Just make it the right strip steak. Here is a very short video on our rotational grazing techniques that we use here at the farm.
A holistic system that was designed to mimic nature. Like the Great Plains of North America or the Great Savannahs of Africa where dozens of feet of top soil were created that we still farm to this day, holistic systems like ours have the large herbivores(buffaloes/cattle) go through the the grass first, eating most and trampling a lot to decay as cover, followed by the small herbivores(antelopes/Sheep) next finish eating the grass and the trampling. And finally followed by the birds(herons/chickens). The birds clean up the insects and spread the manure out. This holistic system which had the (animal in nature/then the animal on our farm) in parentheses shows how diversity in agriculture can be used to heal the environment.
This system where we bring the animals to the food in an environment where the livestock fertilizes the earth is in contrast to a conventional system that uses diesel fuel to bring the food to the animals, that needs to use synthetic fertilizers to feed the plants that feed the livestock. The livestock are held in CAFO(concentrated animal feeding operation). With animals so close together in these CAFO they need to use antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease. Manure instead of being an asset in a holistic environment becomes a toxic waste the needs to be disposed of. Here is a picture of a toxic manure lagoon associated with a cattle feed lot. Pictures of CAFO feedlots .
Therefore in a grass-fed to finish operation that uses holistic techniques is a system that takes advantage of natures diversity and one members input is another members output. There is no waste, fewer inputs necessary, less dependent on diesel and synthetic fertilizers. I believe the evidence that not only is grass-fed beef better for the environment that conventionally raise bee, it is out right good for the environment by the level of carbon sequestration that can be achieved.
Next week we will see why grass-fed is better for the livestock themselves.