Grass: It’s What We Do

There has been much talk lately about the alleged contribution of cattle to the greenhouse gas levels. It is true that a cow creates methane during the cycling of grass through her 4 stomachs, and burps methane in the regurgitation stage, and the critics have pounced on that point to find one more reason to decry the consumption of beef. I have always been suspicious of the allegation, having spent many years watching the opponents of beef searching for new ways to criticize it. With studies now revealing that saturated fats do NOT contribute to heart or stroke conditions, and the government preparing new dietary guidelines which are believed to include higher levels of animal fats in our diet, the anti-beef crowd had to find something new.

This latest challenge will fizzle as well because properly managed grasslands are environmentally friendly. And poorly managed grasslands are at worst a neutral to the environment. A recent study, sent to me by one of our members, demonstrated that properly managed grasslands had a net positive effect on greenhouse gases. That is, it trapped more carbon than the cows emitted. By a significant amount.

One issue the study ignores is the methane plume created once the steer leaves the pasture and enters the feedlot in the conventional protocol. My guess is that there is a lot more carbon producing activity in those feedlots than occur in any pasture, well-managed or otherwise. If you’ve ever entered the “smell zone” of the massive feedlots around Amarillo, you know what I mean. So 100% grass-fed would eliminate that hot spot as well.