Farm Table says:
Ruminating on cattle, grazing systems, methane, nitrous oxide, the soil carbon sequestration question – and what it all means for greenhouse gas emissions.
This report is the final product of a project led by the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford and is a collaborative effort from various universities and research bodies in Europe, and the CSIRO in Australia.
The work was motivated by a desire to provide clarity to the often highly polarised debate around livestock production and consumption, and the merits or otherwise of different production systems. At its most extreme, there is an opposition between those who view grazing ruminants as cause of (most of) our planetary woes, and those who believe the exact opposite, arguing that ‘grassfed’ cattle offer a route to environmental – including climatic – salvation. Of course most people do not hold these extreme views but many, including those with influence, are also somewhat confused. Should we eat meat and other animal products? Or should we not? If we do, is beef bad and chicken better? Or is it the other way round? Is grassfed good for the planet or bad?
Ultimately in the context of planetary boundaries on the one hand and the need for human development (in its widest sense), the ‘big question’ that needs answering is whether farmed animals fit in a sustainable food system and if so, which systems and species are to be preferred. This report does not address this enormous and difficult question, particularly if sustainability is defined in its proper and widest sense. But by exploring a smaller one – the role of grazing ruminants in contributing to, or mitigating climate change – is it hoped to contribute some of the sub-structural knowledge we need if the big question is, ultimately, to be answered.