Their emissions are said to threaten the planet. The foods they produce are claimed to endanger health. But have we got it wrong about cattle? Far from damaging health, grassland and grazing animals may be the key to a better environment and a secure supply of healthy, nutritious food.
- Carbon inventories showing the impact of livestock on greenhouse gases focus on methane emissions. They ignore the emissions linked to the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides used for crop growing.
- Most inventories also ignore the fact that grazed pastures remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Sequestration can offset much of the carbon emitted as methane.
- Health studies linking beef and dairy consumption to some diseases fail to distinguish between foods from grazing cattle and those from animals fed on gain. Beef from pasture-fed cattle has lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of protective omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.
- Pasture-fed beef contains a healthier balance of omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats than grain-fed beef. The ratio in pasture-fed animals is within the range known to reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis and to reduce the risk of some cancers.
- Meat and milk from pasture-fed cattle also contain higher levels of the substance known as CLA, which protects against heart disease and many cancers.
- Pasture in the rotation of a mixed farm produces healthy foods while building fertility for the crops that follow. So itâ€™s a more sustainable way of producing food, relying less on chemicals and fossil fuels.
- Pasture farming supports farmers and rural communities far better than crop growing, which returns most of the profits to large global corporations supplying pesticides, chemical fertilizers and seed.
So forget the misinformation, much of it put out by global corporations. If you eat meat or dairy foods, the best thing you can do for your health – and for the health of the planet â€“ is make sure they are strictly from pasture-fed animals.