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Grass Fed Beef Is Better

8 Comments6 June 1:52

Research reveals that grass-fed beef is better for people and the environment

Feeding cattle on grass throughout their lifecycle is the most environmentally sustainable way to rear beef, according to new research for the National Trust.

One of the biggest global challenges is how to increase food security whilst reducing the environmental impacts of food production. livestock – such as cattle  and sheep – produce high levels of methane as part of the process of digesting grass. This has led to suggestions that intensive production methods – where  cattle are fed largely on cereals, producing less methane – should be preferred over more traditional grass fed livestock farming.

However, in a report issued today, research at 10 Trust farms shows that while the carbon footprint of grass-fed and conventional farms were comparable, the carbon sequestration contribution of  well-managed grass pasture on the less intensive systems reduced net emissions by up to 94 per cent, even resulting in a carbon ‘net gain’ in upland areas. The farms that had recently converted to  organic status showed even greater gains. Rob Macklin, National Agriculture and Food Adviser at the National Trust, said: “The results are contrary to recent thinking that livestock farming methods must intensify further in order to lessen carbon emissions to feed an ever-increasing world population.” “Maximising carbon efficiency alone is  too simplistic. Many less intensive livestock systems would be classed ‘inefficient’ on the carbon emission scale, yet are much less reliant on artificial inputs and tend to have less impacts on  water quality, loss of soil organic matter and reduced biodiversity. “We believe that optimised beef production – deliberately accommodating less than maximum output in order to secure stronger and  broader ecosystem protection – is the best sustainable use for the grasslands in our care.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “This research is incredibly timely. Policy makers across Europe and in the UK are having to tackle the issue of  carbon-efficient food production right now. The debate is all about bringing broader public benefits to the fore alongside food production and this research demonstrates how extensive, grass-fed  beef should be at the heart of discussions.

“We need to find new market mechanisms which reward optimised rather than maximised beef production and as bodies like the Government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force gather their thoughts we think  this research demonstrates an area which is due some real focus. Current Common Agricultural Policy reform discussions can also benefit from understanding what this research is telling us and, as  the reform drives towards even stronger ‘greening’ of the payments farmers receive, we think management that delivers quality, grass-fed beef should be encouraged even more through agri-environment measures.

“We’ll be taking the findings forward with our tenants, policy makers and the industry to explore how we can develop a market advantage which supports a stronger grass-fed beef sector”.

Look out for Smallholder June issue on sale now for livestock help and advice – to subscribe just call 01778 392011 or follow the link above on-line

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