October 2, 2017
If you thought eating only “grass-fed” hamburgers could absolve you from climate change guilt, think again. There’s a lack of evidence that livestock (such as cattle, sheep, and goats) dining on grassland has a lower carbon footprint than that fed on grains, as some environmentalists and “pro-pastoralists” claim, according to a new report [Grazed and Confused] by an international group of researchers led by the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), based at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
“Switching to grass-fed beef and dairy does not solve the climate problem—only a reduction in consumption of livestock products will do that,” says one of the report’s authors, Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom.
Livestock is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, researchers estimate. The animals emit gases such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane in amounts that have significantly changed our atmosphere. And the impact is growing. As more people worldwide are lifted out of poverty, many more can afford to eat meat regularly; global demand for animal products, now 14 grams per person per day, is expected to more than double by 2050.