New Study Finds Grass-Fed Beef Reduces Carbon Footprint

By Elizabeth Murphy – Small Farms Program, Oregon State University

Food security and climate change are two of the most pressing global issues for people and the environment. Livestock production is considered a net greenhouse gas emitter, since the potent greenhouse gas, methane, is produced from ruminant digestion. Animal science studies have found reduced methane emissions with grain-based diets. Combined with the reduced land requirement of feedlot-type systems, this has led to the commonly-held suggestion that intensive cattle production systems, such as feedlots, are better than grass-based production in reducing agricultural carbon footprint and improving food security.

A new modeling study released last month in the report, What’s Your Beef?, found evidence to support the environmental benefits of traditional grass-based beef production and finishing. The National Trust, a conservation non-profit in the United Kingdom, determined that grass-based beef production actually had reduced greenhouse gas emissions when the carbon sequestration and storage of grassland pasture was considered. Furthermore, as grass-fed pastures are often not suitable to intensive crop production, grass farmers make use of marginal land to actually increase food security.

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The Health Benefits of Grass Farming

Consumers have been led to believe that meat is meat is meat. In other words, no matter what an animal is fed, the nutritional value of its products remains the same. This is not true. An animal’s diet can have a profound influence on the nutrient content of its products.

The difference between grainfed and grassfed animal products is dramatic.

First of all, grassfed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grainfed products. For example, a sirloin steak from a grassfed steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grainfed steer.

In fact, grassfed meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk.  When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.

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The Health Benefits of Grass Farming. Author: Jo Johnson “Why Grassfed is Best!”