The belief that grass fed beef could be better
This Plant Chompers youtube channel has an excellent summary of regenerative agriculture starting at 22 mins in.
The purported benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
- Grass fed / organic meat is ‘better’ for you - even advocates for RA admit that it isn’t, see the video above
- That grass that the cows would live on is a better carbon sink than forests - this is only under the condition that the trees are on burned down. This takes some explaining here is that explanation
- Improvements to soil health, resilience, Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) mitigation and biodiversity and on the one farm White Oak Farm this appeared to be the case
Diversified livestock production systems are highly underrepresented in scientific literature, despite evidence of widespread global use….Our results indicate that this system does, in fact, regenerate ecological function including soil health, resilience, GHG mitigation, and biodiversity. It accomplishes this by managing animals intensively (not to be confused with input-intensity) in an otherwise extensive system (no chemical fertilizers, biocides, tillage, etc.). When comparing this approach to a business-as-usual COM-based approach, and including soil C sequestration, the overall emission footprint of the regenerative agriculture approach was 3-fold less. Adoption of practices such as the MSPR investigated in this study should be incentivized at a greater scale while concomitantly investigating technologies and approaches that can reduce the necessary land needed to produce the regenerative proteins.
The agreed downsides of Regenerative Agriculture
- It requires 2.5 times the land - ‘Commodity’ is traditional ‘regenerative agriculture’ and MSPR is the regenerative agriculture.
🔗Source: Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System
- Grass fed cattle produce more CH4 methane than the alternatives, those alternatives produce more CO2 and N20 - though CH4 ‘only’ lives in the atmosphere for 10 years instead of C02’s 1000 years, its still an important greenhouse gas to avoid emitting. Also the CO2 saving of not needing grain for the cattle the ‘system’ requires grain for the pigs and chickens that start the process. So the benefits to C02 emission reduction are marginal.
Life cycle emissions for beef cattle in the MSPR were 33.55 kg CO2-e kg CW−1. This is 30% higher than the most current models evaluating business-as-usual beef cattle production systems (with grain finishing) in the United States (Rotz et al., 2019). This is due to the widely accepted fact that grass-finished cattle have a higher enteric CH4 footprint than those finished on grain because of differences in feed digestibility. In our study, 81% of beef cattle footprint is attributed to enteric CH4. However, the proportional trade-offs of specific GHGs in each production system are also important to consider. For example, while enteric CH4 in the MSPR was proportionately high, CH4 is a short-lived climate pollutant where C is contained in existing biomass and cycled quickly through the atmosphere, lasting on average 10 years before being oxidized (Lynch et al., 2020; Thompson, 2020). Alternatively, although overall emissions in grain-finished beef systems are lower, the portion of fossil-fuel derived emissions is higher, including CO2 and N2O (lasting 1,000 and 100 years on average, respectively) arising from fertilizer production and application for fodder crops and fossil fuel–derived energy use (Picasso et al., 2014). Pierrehumbert and Eshel (2015) also report less overall climate impact of pastured-beef systems with no or minimal fertilization, despite greater enteric CH4 emissions compared to feedlot systems. Recent IPCC estimates show that global CO2 and N2O concentrations have been rising more rapidly than CH4, which has been plateauing (IPCC, 2014). The shorter life span of CH4 in the atmosphere, however, also makes it an attractive target for near-term GHG mitigation.
The Regenerative Racket