Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The grass is always greener

Can grass fed cows help save the planet?

Cows in this country are raised in a feedlot and eat grain their entire lives. This makes them grow fatter and faster for the $79 billion beef industry. Those cows that are left outside in the pasture to eat grass, are sold as “grass-fed” meat. This process takes longer, but produces leaner meat. It also has a stronger taste, which sometimes make it not as desirable; because most of us are raised on the fatty version of beef. Because of the longer time in pasture, the cost for production is greater and is passed on to the consumer.

The trend in grass-fed beef is growing. With rising costs of corn and grains, some farmers are looking at other options. Besides being a healthier choice, grazing pastures provide habitat for lots of other creatures, not just cows. “When managed properly, they can store carbon in much the same way that a forest does. Finishing cows on the range eliminates the need for concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which sully water quality from little creeks all the way down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico” Weber, 2013).

An ecologically diverse rangeland will hold up in adverse weather conditions and allow for continuous grazing all year long. Much land is used now to grow the grain that is fed to the cows. This land could be converted back into graze land, which would have many ecological benefits.

Raising cattle on grass fed fields is a science, and farmers need to be re-trained on what their options are. Right now it all depends on if the public is willing to adjust to the taste and the higher prices.

To read more of this story go here.

Weber, Chris, 2013. Upping the steaks: How grass-fed beef is reshaping ag and helping the planet. Online. Available at:  http://grist.org/food/upping-the-steaks-how-grass-fed-beef-is-reshaping-ag-and-helping-the-planet/

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