Meat gets a bad rap and is often vilified and called out for being a leading cause of climate change. Industrial agriculture is indeed responsible for a myriad of climate disasters from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution to desertification and erosion, but going vegan is not the answer.
Well managed pastures can sequester more carbon than a forest. Lately, there has been a lot of research on the regenerative properties of sustainable agriculture and the results are clear - Regenerative farming practices can not only feed the world, they can actually repair the damage we have done to our ecosystem.
According to a recent Rodale Institute study, on-farm soil can potentially sequester more than 100% of our current annual carbon dioxide emissions. The majority of agricultural land is pasture and the majority of cropland is currently being used to grow grain to feed to livestock. Even conservative estimates show that regenerative agriculture could sequester enough carbon to actually reverse climate change.
Here's how it works:
Grass turns sunshine into food for grazing animals and takes carbon out of the air. Carbon, combined with oxygen & hydrogen makes carbohydrates. Carbohydrates get stored in plant roots and transported through the soil where micro-organisms convert them into minerals and feed the grass.
When grazing animals eats the grass, the plant sloughs off roots to achieve a state of "bilateral symmetry" which basically means that the length of the roots match the length of the blade of grass. The animals then digest the plant and what comes out the other end fertilizes the soil. The grass grows again and the cycle repeats, building more soil and storing more carbon.
Meanwhile, back on the surface, the grazing animals are also eating weeds before they can go to seed. The animals improve the quality of soil and reduce the ability of weeds to reproduce, allowing the grass to win. And when the grass wins, we all win!
Grazing animals can be used to turn marginal grasslands into thriving, healthy, carbon sinking pastures. So it isn't a matter of "cutting back on meat consumption for the sake of the environment." Rather, the important thing is to consume meat that was raised in a manner that is regenerative. Rather than repeatedly disturbing the soil to plant and harvest crops to feed livestock, we simply need to let the livestock cultivate their own food. Grazing grasslands allows carbon to build in the soil and offers an unlimited, and constantly improving buffet of nutrients - essentially turning sunshine into meat.
Conscious carnivores rejoice! You can have your meat AND your atmosphere too!
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