Some say that we all supposed to go vegetarian to save the planet. But The Soil Association claim, through extensive research, that if the meat you eat and the dairy products you consume come from grass fed cattle you actually help save the planet. They say that’s because grazing cattle play an important role for environmental stewardship and the mitigation of climate change.
They explain that one of the three greenhouse gases (GHG) that causes climate change is CO2 but that Organic agriculture, can actually offset CO2 emissions by sequestering carbon, which means fixing it in the soil and that grazing cattle on grassland are a vital part of this.
‘The plants and microorganisms of grassland vegetation co-evolved with animals not just to tolerate, but to actually need grazing’, says Nicolette Hahn Niman in her book ‘Defending Beef’.
Livestock will nibble plants just enough to stimulate plant and root growth and leave dung and urine to fertilize the soil with organic matter. The result is rich, aerated soil that acts like a great big sponge, retaining water, preventing floods and fixing CO2 in the soil.
Another argument in the debate about meat production is ‘how will we feed nine billion people?’
Cattle are part of the solution. Only ruminants are able to transform grass into food for us – dairy and meat. The point here is that there are lots of ‘marginal grasslands’ which cannot be used for anything but grazing cattle. From Wales and Cumbria to the Scottish Highlands, there are many upland areas in Britain unsuitable for growing crops – but with good management (that is grazed by the right number of cattle for the right amount of time) grasslands will thrive.
When farmers are able to make a living by selling milk and meat from their grass-fed animals (as we do at Gazegill), you’ve got a perfect cycle of sustainability: good for the soil, good for the environment, cattle with a good life, producing healthy food for us.
The problem is, as you know, not all meat and dairy is produced organically. Cattle get a bad reputation for contributing to climate change by belching and farting a lot! (they do produce methane, but with minor dietary changes ie. just eating grass/plants and not grain that they are not designed to digest, the amount can be reduced by a factor of six).
Soil Carbon and Organic Farming: http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=SSnOCMoqrXs%3D&tabid=387