Grass-fed beef ‘not a climate solution’

Rearing cows on grass is not the green solution it’s cracked up to be, according to a new study published by the Food Climate Research Network.

FCRN led a team of international experts that dissected the claims and counterclaims in relation to the climate impact of grass-fed beef.

The team “recognised that the grass-fed issue is about multiple social, ethical and environmental concerns but we decided to focus on just one concern: climate change”. And they attempted to answer just one question: what is the net climate impact of grass-fed ruminants, taking into account all greenhouse gas emissions and removals?

Their conclusion? “… grazing livestock – even in a best-case scenario – are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Good grazing management cannot offset its own emissions, let alone those arising from other systems of animal production.”

The report, which reflects two years of work and input from researchers in the UK, Europe and Australia, emphasises the need to consume less meat if the targets set out in the Paris Agreement are to be achieved.

“Looking at the maximum allowable emissions space from all sources in 2050, consistent with the two-degree target laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement, it is clear that with unaltered demand projections for animal products, one third of the total ‘allowable’ emissions space will be taken up by livestock.”

Lead author Tara Garnett said: “Ultimately, if high consuming individuals and countries want to do something positive for the climate, maintaining their current consumption levels but simply switching to grass-fed beef is not a solution. Eating less meat, of all types, is.”

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