Abandoning meat may spell disaster for vital ecosystems
Recent opinion articles advocate eliminating meat from human diets, or using artificial meat substitutes, to fight climate change.
Of the 1.9 billion acres in the lower 48 U.S. states, 788 million are grassland. Globally, grazing animals and grazing land ecosystems evolved together through mutual adaptation. Human history has demonstrated that improperly grazed grasses become unhealthy, and leaving grasslands alone actually degrades them, whereas properly grazed lands become healthier.
Grasslands provide vital “ecosystem services” by sequestering carbon underground in extensive root systems, using up carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, filtering and storing water, providing habitat for other important species, and when grazed, converting cellulose that we cannot digest into high-quality protein that we can digest.
Unhealthy grasslands do less or none of these. Some researchers see grasslands as more reliable carbon sinks than forests. But without grazing animals, we won’t keep grasslands healthy.
Domestic grazing animals only exist today in large numbers because they have economic value. The best way to produce economic value is to properly graze cattle — and sheep and goats — in a sustainable, regenerative way.
Because regenerative agriculture works with nature, not against it, improving our meat production system makes it a genuine climate solution. This would be much more economical, effective, simpler and faster to implement than artificial meat substitutes, “rewilding,” mowing mega-lawns or plant-based diets.