In honor of Earth Month, I want to talk about the environmental benefits of grass-farmed meat. As I have discussed in other blog posts, grass-fed meats are more nutrient-dense and provide better nutrition for our bodies. However, it is not just us that benefit. It is the environment, too!
Grazing animals are referred to as “on pasture”. This means that they roam the land and eat the grass around them. This has a huge beneficial impact on the environment. A primary benefit is that these animals require less fossil fuel use. When animals are raised in conventional, or confined, farming they are typically fed corn or soy feed (which is not part of their natural diet and they do not digest well). This feed requires resources to grow, harvest and transport. Not to mention the feed is treated with pesticides which are harmful to the animal, soil, and water system.
Animals on pasture also provide a better system for air quality management. When a pasture-based farm is managed properly the animals spread manure throughout the land. This provides natural and organic fertilizer for the soil. The USDA has studied the effects of pasture-raised animals and has found that compared to undisturbed grassland (and of course feedlots), these grazed pastures have a higher amount of carbon stored in the soil. This stored carbon, which occurs when the cows’ hooves naturally till the land, means increased soil fertility and decreased greenhouse gas emission (i.e. slowed global warming). This, ultimately, improves the health of the grass which also helps purify the air.
This is not possible with conventional farming methods where the animal feces and urine build up in the confined living spaces. Because it is not able to air properly, ammonia gas builds up which can harm the animals as well as workers. When the waste is finally collected, it has reached toxic levels. This now toxic waste is then shipped and spread over fields where it releases dangerous levels of nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil and water system. This is the issue when the effect of beef on climate change is discussed. Just as with nutrition, the environmental effects of grass-fed and conventional beef are starkly different!
In addition to opting for grass-fed beef, you can have a further environmental impact by eating organic produce grown by local farmers. Not only does this boost your local economy but it will give you the highest amount of nutrients possible. The larger the farms and the further it travels, the fewer nutrients the produce will contain. Why? Because that transported produce is picked before peak ripeness (meaning it has less nutrients available) so that it can sit in warehouses and in transit (where it may be chemically-ripened) to get to your big box grocery stores, during which time it becomes less farm-fresh and depleted of nutrients. Have you ever noticed that produce from the farmers market has a more robust taste than the produce from the store? This is why! It's all those extra nutrients and peak-ripeness that you're tasting!
So buying organic, local produce and grass-farmed meats not only has a positive impact on your health but the overall health of the planet! Knowing where your food comes from is a great place to start: Read labels to see where your produce comes from, get to know local farmers and shop at farmers markets when you can. These little steps give you the power to make the world, and yourself, happier and healthier!
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