Grass Fed Beef, Climate Change & The Planet. Find out the truth…

In our blog about good meat and bad meat, we tried to open your eyes to the truth about what’s in our meat. There are some good choices and some bad choices, which principally relate to health and the welfare of the animal AND the way the meat is then processed and treated. 

However, in this conversation there is one major factor that also needs to be addressed and that is the positive impact of Grass Fed or Pasture Fed Beef, over grain fed beef, when it comes to providing a sustainable, long term food source that is also good for the planet and reduces the issues we face relating to climate change. Here at Top Herd we are such strong advocates of Grass Fed or Pasture Fed Beef, we have decided to dedicate a whole blog to espousing its virtues.

During the course of this blog we will also aim to tackle a few thorny issues often hurled at the beef farming industry. For example, if you ask a climate change expert what they think about meat, more often than not they will tell you that we should be eating less of it.  The United Nations has calculated that animal farming is responsible for 14.5 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions and red meat and dairy production accounts for well over half of that (65 per cent). We are also frequently told that beef farming is unacceptably water intensive. Have you heard it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef?

There is nothing essentially wrong with these stats when referring to grain fed beef, but they are simply not true when it comes to Grass Fed Beef, which is in part why we’re such strong advocates of grass fed at Top Herd snacks. It’s also because grass fed beef tastes better, is better for your health and is more caring and considerate for the cows themselves. Here’s the detail:-

1. Grass Fed Beef can help reduce global warming

The main ecological question that haunts any kind of beef farming involves climate change. Cows emit methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon. But the bit that’s so often misunderstood is that grazing cows also promote healthy, flourishing grasslands, which suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil. It’s this process of carbon sequestering that helps reduce green house gases and in turn reduces global warming. We guess you know about the ravaging deforestation for the purpose of growing annual crops and how it is warming the planet, well it’s exactly the same!

If you’re looking for a good read ‘Cows Save the Planet’ by Judith D. Schwartz is a really good intro into cows and sustainable farming. It puts forward that improving the world’s grasslands using Holistic Planned Grazing methods could potentially sequester enough carbon in the soil to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide back to pre-industrial levels. That would be amazing! She expands to say that it’s a perfect virtuous circle of life – our grasslands, farms and pastures serve as the Earth’s carbon sinks, the cows keep them grazed, healthy & fertilised, and the cows in turn convert the grass into super nutritious food that can feed us humans. 

If you’d like to read more, take a look at The National Trust research which is studying carbon sequestering in the UK’s National Trust land; there is also a great TED talk given by the inspirational Allan Savory who explains the beneficial role of livestock on the land far better than we ever could: How to Green the World’s Deserts and Reverse Climate Change . Prince Charles publicly endorsed his work, calling him “a forward-thinker in global sustainability”; and lastly check out Peter Ballerstedt  who believes “Grass-based agriculture is the only truly sustainable agriculture.” 

So despite what most people believe, livestock really could be one of the keys to reversing climate change.

2. Grass Fed Beef is nutritionally better for you

Consumers have been led to believe that meat is meat. In other words, no matter what an animal is fed, the nutritional value of its products remains the same. This is not true. An animal’s diet can have a profound influence on the nutrient content for these reasons:-

a) Grass-fed beef tends to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed For example, a sirloin steak from a grass-fed cow has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed cow. This is why we use it in our Jerky snacks, because it’s as lean as skinless chicken.

b) Grass-fed beef is typically lean, it is also lower in calories. And remember, fat has 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates.

c) There is much research that supports that grass-fed beef gives you from two to six times more heart friendly “omega-3.” Can’t be bad.

d) The CLA in grass-fed beef is also a “Brucey Bonus” – the meat and milk from grass-fed cows are the richest known source of a good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA, which reputable research links to cancer prevention

3. Grass Fed Beef is a more caring way to farm

Cows are grain fed to fatten them up in the last 6 months, but it’s not widely known that whilst grain is cheap, cow’s digestive systems simply don’t cope with it very well. Lierre Keith in the brilliant ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ talks at length of how cows become more and more sick from being grain fed, getting ulcers, liver problems and inflammation of the bowel. Grass fed for this reason is simply a much better, more humane, more natural way to raise beef.

4. Grass Fed Cows drink less water

The amazing Lierre Kieth, a vegan for 25 years, makes an incredibly compelling argument about the fact that grass fed cows simply don’t consume as much water as grain fed cows. A sensible calculation determines that it takes 122 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of grass fed beef, not 2500 gallons as is normally stated by climate warming scientists! And considering that beef contains double the calories vs. a pound of wheat which takes 60 gallons of water to produce, you could say it’s “even stevens”.

At Top Herd we are in little doubt as to the superiority of Grass-fed beef, but we’re also very conscious that most beef eaten in the UK is not (80%+). Whenever you can, choose grass-fed and it will hugely help the farmers that are trying to drive this planet protecting change. Our belief at Top Herd is that we should always try to eat in a way that nature intended and in our view the closer we get to nature the better. So let’s get to it!

Top Herd #proteinfromnature



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