Grassfed Beef: Better for the planet

I'm a fan of sustainable food.  If the Mapawatt Blog was a University, my undergrad would be in Sustainable Living, my Masters in Energy (conservation, efficienty, renewable, etc.) and my Minor would be in sustainable food/farming.  While Mapawatt's focus is reducing fossil-fuel energy in residential settings, I occasionally sprinkle in a few topics that relate to general sustainable living because I believe in a "systems" (looking at the big picture) approach to sustainable living.   In March of '09 I wrote about Polyface Farms, who takes a complete systems approach to their farming practices.

I'm passionate about sustainable food for several reasons:

  • It's better for humans (less pestecides, less hormones, less nasty stuff)
  • It's better for the environment (less pesticides, less monoculture, less agricultural run-off, etc.)
  • It makes me happier to know I'm eating something in the way nature intended me to eat it

At its simplest, sustainable food/farming can be divided into two main topics: plants and animals.

Now, there are many vegetarians who wish sustainable food only meant eating plants, but I'm not one of them.  Humans evolved to eat meat, and I enjoy eating meat.  While my wife and I are trying to eat less of it for health reasons, we still enjoy a nice steak or pork chop every now and then.  But I don't like eating meat from factory farms.  It bothers me to know that we're willing to sacrifice quality, animal welfare, and our health for the sake of cheaper ground beef.  There's another option to eating meet that are fattened up on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) : Grass-Fed Beef.

Last week's issue of Time Magazine had an excellent article on Grass-Fed Beef titled, "How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet".   Global Warming alarmists cry about the amount of methane cattle produce, but the Time article had  a great description of why we may not need to worry about grass-fed cattle's methane's production:

It works like this: grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across pastures full of it, and the animals' grazing will cut the blades — which spurs new growth — while their trampling helps work manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich humus. The plant's roots also help maintain soil health by retaining water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere.
In case you didn't know, cows can't survive by just eating grain alone because they are ruminants.  But those that produce unnatural cattle on factory farms don't care about that.  The Time article goes on to say,
...grass feeding obviates the antibiotics that feedlots are forced to administer in order to prevent the acidosis that occurs when cows are fed grain.
Aside from the fact that nature (which usually gets things right) intended cows to eat grass (there's a hint), Grass-Fed Beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3s, so it's healthier than fatty, hormone-and-antibiotic-filled CAFO beef.
Sustainable decisions need to be made by taking into account all factors involved in the entire system.  Sure, some GW alarmists think that eating meat will end the world (what about all those fossil-fuel fertilized monoculture soy farms that make tofu?), and factory farmers want to feed us the cheapest/unhealthiest product they can for the sake of an easier buck, but I occasionally like eating meat the way nature intended for us to, not how capitalism has trained us to.  Grass-fed beef makes so much sustainable sense, it's certainly worth a few more cents at the store.
***Update - 02/01/10 - I just found the site  They offer grass-fed beef sales in the Atlanta area, but if you don't live in Atlanta they have a ton of good information on the benefits of grass fed beef.  They are also an example of a good business idea on how you could start a local sustainable agriculture sales business!
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In the local Atlanta area, I got my grass fed beef from They are VERY friendly people and the beef that they raise is some of, if not THE best, I have eaten! Check them out ... you won;t be sorry. And the cost was the best I could find in the area too!
Thanks for your great post. It is so important to educate people on the importance of eating "<a>Grass Fed Beef</a> " . I work with La Cense Beef, they are a Grass Fed Beef ranch located in Montana. They have been raising grass fed cattle for years and really know what they are doing. They sell their delicious cuts of beef online directly to the consumer.

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