Tara Garnett,* Cécile Godde,* Adrian Muller, Elin Röös, Pete Smith, Imke de Boer, Erasmus zu Ermgassen, Mario Herrero, Corina van Middelaar, Christian Schader, Hannah van Zanten
Food Climate Research Network Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
An international research collaboration has shed light on the impact that grass-fed animals have on climate change. Its new study adds clarity to the debate around livestock farming and meat and dairy consumption.
The newly published report dissects claims made by different stakeholders in the debate about so called ‘grass-fed’ beef, the greenhouse gases the animals emit, and the possibility that, through their grazing actions, they can help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It evaluates these claims and counterclaims against the best available science, providing an authoritative and evidence-based answer to the question: Is grass-fed beef good or bad for the climate?
"Grazed and Confused? Ruminating on cattle, grazing systems, methane, nitrous oxide, the soil carbon sequestration question – and what it all means for greenhouse gas emissions" is written by Dr Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford, Cécile Godde at Australia’s national science agency the CSIRO and a team of international experts. The report finds that while grazing of grass-fed animals can boost the sequestration of carbon in some locally specific circumstances, that effect is time-limited, reversible, and at the global level, substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gas emissions they generate.
Lead author Dr Tara Garnett explains the key takeaways from this report:
“This report concludes that grass-fed livestock are not a climate solution. Grazing livestock are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Rising animal production and consumption, whatever the farming system and animal type, is causing damaging greenhouse gas release and contributing to changes in land use. Ultimately, if high consuming individuals and countries want to do something positive for the climate, maintaining their current consumption levels but simply switching to grass-fed beef is not a solution. Eating less meat, of all types, is.”