Overall, the media has no understanding of science (Rod reports on agriculture yet his wheelhouse is economics, not science).
Politicians and the general public are overly focused on emissions yet fail to account for the BENEFITS livestock have on overall ecosystem function, rural economics, and the fact that methane is a flow gas that breaks down after 10 years. Plus well-managed cattle can sequester carbon
Who is really driving Carbon Tunnel Vision?
Well, it certainly benefits the alternative plant-based protein industry.
They can’t win on nutrition, they can’t win on water cycles, they can’t win on habitat (their inputs aren’t even derived from organic monocrops), and they can’t win on supporting rural economies. Thus, the only part of the argument they seemingly CAN win on is “emissions”.
The result: governments all over the world making short-sighted decisions to drastically cut emissions from the livestock sector.
Whether this is culling cows in Ireland (which will not reduce demand for their products, simply put Irish farmers out of business and shift the EU demand for meat and dairy products to another country), to people buying Welsh farmland for carbon credits (taking it out of food production and rewilding it), to the policy I learned about in New Zealand where farmers are encouraged to take entire sections of their producing grazing land and plant non-native mono-crop trees which will be a closed canopy, not even allowing for a silvopasture system to allow grazing.
All of this is madness, and it’s only getting worse.
Yes, emissions should not be ignored, but there’s a much bigger story to tell.
It’s time ranchers continue the dialogue in an unapologetic way!
This is the truth:
- Meat is nutritious, and there’s never been any study to prove it causes cancer or heart disease.
- It can turn food we can’t eat on land we can’t crop into the most important food for humans, addressing the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide.
- And when managed well, grazing animals are a benefit to ecosystem function, providing habitat for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, improving the water holding capacity of the soil, mitigating fire risk, and benefiting soil health.
Towards the end of my trip, I spoke at RCS Convergence to a friendly group of regenerative ranchers who deal with much more brittle conditions than the lush pastures I saw in New Zealand.
Foot and Mouth disease is a looming threat from Indonesia, and many farmers I spoke to are shocked that the government isn’t doing more to prevent its spread, which unfortunately seems inevitable.
I also learned about “Lumpy Skin Disease” from a vet who feels the likelihood of this painful condition infecting Australian cattle to be more likely than Food and Mouth because it’s spread by insects.
On the positive side, I did learn about the growing business of goat grazing in dry areas.
Goats prefer the woody brush that cattle won’t eat, cutting down on fire risk, and it seems there’s a strong market for goat meat in the United States, especially in ethic populations on the coasts.
I fully enjoyed my adventure down under and have already been invited back for May 2023 to speak in Sydney, so I expect another string of speaking engagements, and possibly some extra time to tour farms.
One important distinction I noticed among New Zealand and Australian livestock producers is the understanding that it can be seen as elitist to only promote grass-fed beef.
The idea that we all need to eat “less meat, better meat” is very strong in the United States, and I fear it ends up alienating producers who could be converting to better practices – plus it paints feedlot finished beef as “evil” and unhealthy.
In the US, there’s a massive polarization between grass fed producers who seem to think they’re superior to typical ranchers, and that typical beef is poison.
We need to stop this.
The folks I spoke to in New Zealand and Australia understand that there are many people who can’t access regenerative beef, yet need that nutrition.
They understand that typical beef has a place in our food system.
We can advocate for better food production systems while acknowledging the nutritional benefits meat has to those who need it.
Read more on why, as a dietitian and mother, I feel it’s unethical to keep saying “less meat, better meat” here.
Saying this doesn’t improve overall human health and simply fuels the anti-meat narrative.
This is why my organization, the Global Food Justice Alliance exists.
I’m spending the week catching up on email, hanging with my kids, and getting some sun.
Have a great week!