New study challenges assumptions on grass-fed cattle

The Breakthrough Institute’s findings challenge the prevailing narrative that grass-fed operations are inherently more environmentally friendly.

The livestock industry’s previous notion surrounding grass-fed cattle and their transition to grain-based diets before slaughter is now facing scrutiny after a groundbreaking study recently released by The Breakthrough Institute. The study conducted was an extensive examination of 100 beef operations from 16 countries, revealing insights that diverge from prior research.

In a surprising turn, and contrary to conventional wisdom, the study found that pasture-finished operations (typically associated with a higher level of sustainability) produce 20 percent more carbon than cattle finished on grain.

The findings challenge the prevailing narrative that grass-fed operations are inherently more environmentally friendly. As environmental sustainability takes center stage in discussions about agriculture, the study prompts a reevaluation of our assumptions. Diving deeper into the environmental impacts, when accounting for soil carbon sequestration and carbon opportunity cost, the total carbon footprint of these operations is a staggering 42 percent higher. This revelation underscores the critical role of land use intensity in shaping the overall environmental impact of beef production.

The implications extend beyond the immediate concerns of greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing the intricate relationship between land use practices and overall carbon footprint.


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