Grass-fed is close to nature, and as close to the “good ol’ days” that you can imagine. Marketers dream of grass-fed futures. Thousands of faces scattered along a sunny green hill, around long winding roads, churning grass calmly and gleefully- Happy and healthy cows, indeed.
Images like that are airbrushed and are aimed to make the farmers and consumers feel good about themselves. Fresh farms, hormone-free, ethically treated, non-GMO, all organic and antibiotic-free beef produce. The emotions attached to them indicate environmental sustainability. But truth be told, is this a model that is truly sustainable? Does it hit the brakes of soil erosion, climate change, deforestation and slow down the collapse of the environment?
We don’t need to venture out to make believe-land. All we need is a bit of middle school mathematics.
1 cow requires around 2 acres of pasture and around 20-30 gallons of water on a daily basis. This is again on the assumption that the 2 acres are perfect for grazing with no barren spots. In winter months, the grains will need to be purchased, but for the sake of simplicity let us limit it to 2 acres for a cow per day.
If we were to multiply with the total number of cattle and swine, then in the United States alone, one would require 2.5 billion acres of land. The issue is that the United states is totally only 2.3 billion, including the mountains, deserts, creeks, and swamps. Alaska- which is barren tundra- makes up 17% of the United States. Plus the 2.5 billion is only including the cattle and swine. What if we add in the 250 million grass raised turkey, 8 billion chickens and 7 million sheep that are consumed yearly?
Does this spell out ‘sustainable’ in any language?
Plant-based foods and produces that can be grown in the span of 2 acres can feed a larger crowd of people. Add to this mix, a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, root crops…
Around 100,000 pounds of organic produce can be created in a plot of 2 acres of agricultural land within 2 years. Not to mention that plant-based diet is definitely healthier and devoid of hormones and drugs that are shot into cattle to make them larger and to produce ‘more yield’. The impact on the environment, by sticking to plant-based will have a lasting impact for not only the better part of the human race but also for the other inhabitants of this beautiful planet…