WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report released today by the Food Climate Research Network at Oxford University calls into question the climate benefits of grass-fed beef and finds that rising animal production and consumption – of all kinds and in all systems – “is causing damaging greenhouse gas release and contributing to changes in land use.”
The report, “Grazed and confused?” concludes that “Eating less meat, of all types,” is critical for fighting climate change.”
Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology at Friends of the Earth, issued the following response to the report:
Eating less meat is key to combatting climate change, but let’s focus on reducing consumption of inhumane, polluting factory-farmed meat that dominates the US beef market. When choosing meat, people should consider the holistic benefits of well-managed grass-fed beef, in addition to the climate impacts. The report’s narrow climate focus leaves out numerous benefits of grass-fed over grain-fed industrial beef.
Well-managed grazing systems deliver critical environmental and public health benefits, including carbon-rich soils and habitats that support wildlife, bees and other critical pollinators. While industrial agriculture’s excessive use of antibiotics and growth hormones can have harmful effects on animal welfare and human health, grass-fed beef is often raised without drugs. It also has higher levels of nutrients, and contains fewer pesticides than GMO grain-fed conventional beef.
While this study shines new light on grass-fed meat and climate change, more research is needed to determine which systems, under which conditions can sequester the most carbon and minimize methane releases. Given the dramatic variations of grass-fed systems, and the potential of silvopasture and other management systems to deliver significant climate benefits, we still have much to learn.
For more information on the benefits of grass-fed meat, please visit Friends of the Earth’s Better Burgers website.