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3 REPLACE FEEDLOT MEAT WITH GRASS-FED BEEF

This action focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy related to feedlot meat.

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why?

A diet of grazed grass requires much less fossil fuel than a feedlot diet of dried corn and soy. On pasture, grazing animals do their own fertilizing and harvesting. The ground is covered with greens all year round, so it does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy and holding on to top soil and moisture. In addition, grazed pasture removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than any land use, including forestland and ungrazed prairie, helping to slow global warming and climate change.

Meat from grass-fed animals requires only one calorie of fossil fuel to produce two calories of food versus many grain and vegetable crops which require 5-10 calories of fossil-fuel for every calorie of food or fiber produced. (Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Dept of agriculture)

In addition to the less energy required, well-managed pasture absorbs far more rain water than most other land uses, allowing more water to return to underground water storage rather than being used to water crops. Grazed lands all help slow global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the air.

Well-managed grazing lands provide much-needed habit for wildlife, reduce water runoff, and provide cleaner, more abundant water for wildlife and human use. (NRCS)

While eating less meat is an alternative option for reducing the impact diet has on the environment, eating meat from well-managed grazing animals has been shown to provide a net benefit to the planet. A study released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture outlines this finding:

Methane gas, a by-product of rumen digestion, is even more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping the sun's heat, making it a legitimate cause for concern. However, the production of methane gas is only a part of the complex environmental equation. An organization called the Institute for Environmental Research and Education (IERE) has been comparing the overall impact on greenhouse gasses of raising animals on pasture or in a typical feedlot.

Climate Change for Beefcattle

In the graph to the right, you can see IERE's side-by-side comparison of the two systems.

The black bars represent feedlot animals and the green bars represent pastured animals. Although an animal raised on pasture actually produces more methane (represented by the bars in the category labeled "enteric") than raising them in a feedlot, there are compensating factors.

First and foremost, the pasture itself reduces greenhouse gasses through a process called "carbon sequestration" which more than offsets the extra methane. For twelve years, soil scientists at the Agricultural Research Service branch of the USDA have been studying the impact that grazing animals have on the land. Compared with grassland that has been undisturbed, areas that have been moderately grazed have more carbon stored in the soil.

The Great Plains can sequester over 40 tons of carbon per acre versus cultivated soils which can sequester about 26 tons per acre (see two studies here:

Second, there is much greater use of fossil fuel in the production of a feedlot diet than in the raising of pasture grasses.

Third, the manure in feedlots is a major emitter of ammonia, another greenhouse gas. The net result is represented in the final bars on the right. Compared with cows raised in factory farms, letting cows graze in the fresh air lowered the amount of ammonia released into the atmosphere by about 30 percent (USDA Agricultural Research Service(ARS)).

The verdict: fattening ruminants in a feedlot makes a significant contribution to global warming, while raising them on pasture offsets the grazing animals' added methane production and may actually reduce greenhouse gasses.

For more information, contact Dr. Rita Schenck at www.iere.org


how to do this action:


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How many pounds of feedlot beef were replaced with grass-fed beef over the course of 60 days (Implementation phase)?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of replacing feedlot meat with grass-fed beef affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (F3_BASELINE) to keep a log of all beef consumption for one week while maintaining your typical buying habits. What brands/kinds of beef do you typically buy and where from?

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (F3_BASELINE) as it relates to your current meat consumption habits.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (F3_QUANTITATIVE) to keep a log of all grass-fed beef purchases, noting where you found the product and how the price compared.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, every IMPLEMENTATION day on the spreadsheet (F3_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. How did your overall satisfaction with the product change? Did purchasing grass-fed beef change the way you cooked at all? Was it difficult to find grass-fed beef, and where did you find it?


resources

ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

F3_Replace Feedlot Meat with Grass-fed Beef Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

F3_BASELINE
F3_QUANTITATIVE
F3_QUALITATIVE