What Anti-Beef Messaging Gets Wrong About Regenerative Agriculture
You may have recently come across an article from Epicurious about their decision to stop creating or posting recipes that include beef on their website or social media. They cited the greenhouse gas emissions that come from cattle, along with the claim that beef production is less efficient than the production of poultry, pork, or beans. While those things sound scary, what Epicurious and other anti-beef crusaders are missing—including the restaurant Eleven Madison Park, which cut beef from its menu—is that we are having the wrong conversation. Instead of villainizing all beef, we should be discussing how our beef is raised and taking a hard look at conventional farming versus regenerative agriculture. Because if you’re raising beef the right way, these issues all start to become moot. Let’s break it down.
Anti-Beef Messaging Gets the Data Wrong
In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released a report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow. In which, the researchers said that beef production was the cause of 18% anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, a figure which FAO changed to 14.5% in its 2013 study. Though that number decreased, a fatal flaw was noted in the report’s methodology, as Dr. Frank Mitloehner from the University of California, Davis recognized that the FAO looked at the entire lifecycle of beef production but only measured tailpipe emissions when considering transportation’s effect on the environment.
As a result, much of the anti-beef messaging we see in the world today is based on a report that was originally based on imprecise science and has since been amended. At present, it’s estimated that livestock represents only about 5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), though there’s plenty more compelling data out there that dispels the anti-beef talking points.
Conventional Farming’s Negative Impact
In the present day, the agriculture sector is one of the largest causes of carbon dioxide production, which has a direct link to the climate changes we are seeing on our planet today. It’s currently measured that agriculture is responsible for just under 25 percent of all human-created greenhouse gas emissions. So no matter what is being produced, plants or animals, when done with conventional farming methods emissions are produced at a higher level.
Whether it’s beef, vegetables, fruits, dairy, or anything else under the sun, the way we farm is just as important as what we are farming. Conventional farming’s impact on the planet can be measured in several ways, but one compelling dataset is that tilling crops often produces a staggering amount of greenhouse gas emissions and that if even just 25 percent of farmers switched to no-till cultivation methods, greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 25 percent as well. And if 100 percent of farmers switched to no-till methods, emissions would be cut by a staggering 80 percent.
How Does Regenerative Agriculture Help the Environment?
People love to talk about the belches and farts (methane) of the cattle as contributing to beef’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. But what is lost in this calculation is how cattle that are pasture-raised help with carbon sequestration on the farms while also treating the land in a natural way. By managing the pastures in a natural, holistic manner, much of the carbon can be stored in the soil, effectively keeping the carbon from reaching the Earth’s atmosphere and offsetting all of the gas emitted from the cattle.
By maintaining a farm in a way that mimics nature through the practice of regenerative agriculture, beef production can help make healthier soil that’s more resistant to both flooding and drought, while also creating healthier beef in the process. By practicing regenerative agriculture we’re reigniting life in the soil and returning to the very roots of agriculture itself, allowing for the world to heal and to build a better future for the planet, the animals, and you.
How to Support Regenerative Agriculture
The easiest way to support regenerative agriculture and the positive impact it can have on our planet is to support companies that practice and advocate for this movement. Teton Waters Ranch supports regenerative agriculture by sourcing our beef from ranchers that raise Certified Humane, 100 percent grass-fed, grass-finished cattle, and we’re not alone. It’s a movement that farmers, ranchers, and growers of all stripes are embracing, and the more you show your support loudly—and help us shift the narrative from anti-beef to pro-regenerative agriculture—the closer we’ll be to making our food system more sustainable and healthy.