Why Grass Fed Beef Isn't Just Healthier
Organic produce and pasture based meat and dairy have less of an environmental impact than their conventionally produced counterparts, a recently released report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found. Titled A Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health, the report includes lifecycle assessments of 20 popular types of meat, dairy and vegetable proteins. The cradle-to-grave carbon footprint of each food item based on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated before and after the food leaves the farm is included in the assessments.
The life cycle assessments are based on conventionally produced meat and not pasture-based or organically produced. "We focused on conventionally produced, grain-fed meat because that is mostly what Americans eat," the report states. However, the report does assess environmental impacts of organic and pasture based meat and dairy.
"Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed are generally the least environmentally damaging (although a few studies of the impact on climate show mixed results for grass-fed versus confined-feedlot meat," according to the report. "Overall, these products are the least harmful, most ethical choices."
Producing the grain fed to livestock takes lots of cropland, pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer to produce. Grain production takes 149 million acres of cropland, 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer to produce. When nitrogen fertilizer is applied to soil it generates nitrous oxide, which has a warming effect 300 times that of carbon. Feed production also costs taxpayers as feed crops are "heavily subsidized" by taxpayers through the Farm Bill. Taxpayer subsidies for feed crops cost taxpayers $45 billion over the last decade.