The Food Crusades
Hannah Raudsepp
91

Great article! I do have a bone to pick about this statement though:

“ Studies have demonstrated that grass-finished cattle leave a 70% larger carbon footprint than those finished on grain”

I’ve seen this and several other studies come to similar findings, but it doesn’t quite present a complete picture.

The emissions delta between grain and grass finished is gross, not net, in all the studies I’ve seen, because they don’t take into account the carbon produced in the entire production. Instead — and please correct me if you’ve seen different methodologies — the studies I’ve seen are measuring only the total CO2 and methane produced by the cow through expiration. And most of that delta comes from the fact that grass finished cattle are alive 6–12 months longer than steers finished at CAFO.

They’re not, however, taking into account a.) the carbon sequestration of increased soil mass and biomass created by (properly managed) rotationally-grazed herds, b.) the emissions and environmental cost of grain fields that supply the CAFO, c.) the methane emissions of manure that isn’t incorporated immediately into the soil by biological processes (i.e. CAFO waste and lagooning).

The effects of MIRG are truly amazing; on the first property I rented I was able to increase our per acre AUM load from 78 to 95 in just two seasons, and the second year actually had LESS rainfall than the first. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor. I’m sure the law of diminishing returns will kick in around 120–125 AUM, at which point I reckon I’ll experiment with a pig-till/grain/cover rotation before applying herbivores again. Apply this principle as strip grazing between tree guilds and you’d have an insanely productive system with all the ecological benefits of native forest/prairie.

Or so I hope :-)

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