There’s an idea that’s been floated around by some environmental groups for quite a while now that eating meat, specifically red meat, is a fairly large contributing factor to our carbon footprint. While we really appreciate thinking outside the box, when you look at the facts you’ll find that it’s less about whether you eat meat but the method in which the animals are raised. Pasture raised animals just don’t have the same carbon footprint as “conventionally” raised animals.
Grass fed animals do most of the feed harvesting (by grazing) and the recycling and distribution of many nutrients back onto pastures (manure), which is a great thing. Farmers don’t need to plant, spray, fertilize, and harvest corn and other grains and then haul the loads to a feedlot to fatten animals.
Corn grown for cattle feed accounts for more than 40 percent of all the commercial fertilizer and herbicides applied to crops in the United States, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture. Up to half of that fertilizer will end up polluting surface and groundwater.
Pastures and hay fields can be grown with minimal or no fertilizing inputs, and because pasture plants tie down the soil, there is no runoff to clog and pollute streams and lakes.
The production of grass fed meats uses considerably less fossil fuel than is required for grain-fed meats. Grass fed animals graze in pastures, so farmers don’t need to use tractors and combines, which burn fossil fuels, to plant and harvest corn and soybeans, which also require fertilizers and pesticides made from fossil fuels.