Environmental Benefit of Grass Fed Beef
In 2005, the USDA released a report showing that properly managed pastures store 2 to 3 times more carbon in their soils than fields that were left unmanaged, used for hay, or left un-harvested. Another study released by the University of Iowa in 2002 showed that grazed pastures were the ideal land use for storing carbon. This means that properly grazing animals helps to reverse the greenhouse effect. Allan Savory, founder of the Center for Holistic management, has done calculations suggesting that we could actually reverse global warming by grazing cattle and using them to build soil organic matter. His work emphasizes, however, that this is only done through good grazing practices. Poor grazing practices have long been the culprits of desertification and environmental degradation. There is a difference; and the only way to identify sound practices is know your local farmer.
Prairie ecosystems evolved along with great herds of grazers until each came to depend on the other for existence.
Animals like bison and cattle, when managed so they graze an area hard for a short time then move on, will do wonders to enhance the soil and the prairie matrix (even though when they are moved off the area, it looks torn up). The seemingly violent event causes plant roots to die back (because their photosynthesizing tops have been mowed off), which deposits organic matter directly into the soil. The root dieback also creates additional channels in the soil matrix that enhance water and gas transport.
Brief mob grazing events have the added benefit of chopping the dry, dead and oxidized plant material left from previous growing seasons into small pieces, and incorporating them into the soil. Make no mistake about it. The rich deep prairie top soils are the direct result of regular and cyclical organic matter deposits caused by root dieback and
mulching of the tops. Without regular grazing, they would likely have never formed.
In an artificial situation, where ungulate herds don’t have access to unlimited grassland acreages, they will have a tendency to visit their favorite areas frequently enough that they will cause damage (soil and plant) in the long term. Thus, it is important to force animals (especially domestic) to move around so that the pasture can recover sufficiently after each grazing event. Follow a herd of bison with access to hundreds of thousands of acres for a year, and it will be doubtful that they will visit the same patch of prairie twice. Unless, of course, it’s a prairie dog town.
But that’s a story for another time.
(Oscar Will III, editor Grit Magazine )
Learn More About the Health and Environmental Benefits of Grass Fed Beef
Check out other health and environmental benefits of grass fed beef. Weatherbury’s grass fed beef is not only healthy, it is tasty too!
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