Savour food Savour life – How cattle can rejuvenate grasslands and also decrease global warming

Cattle are meant to roam and graze. Cattle are not meant to be “centralized in animal feeding operations”. They are meant to eat grass. They are healthy when they eat grass. They can contribute to the health of our grasslands if they are rotated and managed well. Here’s a brief video explaining this further.

Here’s another video where Alberta rancher Tim Hoven talks about the carbon sequestering properties of well-managed grasslands.

Here’s a final video which explains how returning animals to grasslands, managing their grazing to mimic how it would be if predators were present can return areas from desertification to lush healthy grasslands that because of their carbon storage and contribution to the water table could reverse global warming.

So, are you surprised that cattle could actually increase the health of grasslands and help decrease global warming?

A lot has been learned about how to finish cattle on grass. It takes longer – 24 – 30 months compared to 14 – 16 months for cattle in conventional CAFO’s (Centralized Animal Feeding Operations). The health benefits for humans and for our earth of the grass-finishing method of feeding cattle are numerous. I set out to learn about grass-finished cattle this week for my CBC Radio One Alberta at Noon Column. I thought I would find a few in Alberta that are opting out of the commodity system of raising cattle – selling calves at auction, sending them to a feedlot and onto a mega packing plant. I thought I would find some ranchers that were doing their own feed lot finishing on their ranches, a few more that were organically feeding and then a very few that were grass-finishing.

Boy, was I wrong. Here’s a list of all the grass-finished beef ranches I found.

Sure there are about 20 grass-finishers compared to 20,000 ranchers in Alberta still raising cattle industrially and conventionally. Another way to look at it though is that at one point there were 39,000 conventional ranches. They have decreased by 50%. The grass-finished operations have gone up many fold.

But guess what? I think after the BSE crisis of 2003 and several e.coli outbreaks including the shut down of a plant in Brooks, Alberta (formerly owned by XL Lakeside Packers – now owned by JBS Canada) in 2012 there will be an increased trend for grass-finished beef. Consumers have begun searching for the healthiest beef they can find from a grower they can trust and this will only continue to increase. Consumers create demand in any market. We vote with our dollars and where we spend those dollars will influence the cattle industry.

Why am I writing about grasslands on a blog called Savour food, Savour Life? Because our food, our lives and our grasslands – everything is connected.

I think we need to savour beef for the nutritional properties it can deliver when left to feed the way it was meant to feed. It will stop making us fat if we stop making it so falsely fat with food (grains) it was never supposed to eat. Turns out, when cattle get to eat grass and are moved and managed well, they are healthy, we can be healthy if we eat them, they contribute to the health of grasslands and therefore all life on earth as the videos above one by one showed us.

Grass + cattle = me savouring my food and savouring my life on the planet.


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