Does grass-fed livestock produce fewer GHG emissions then those fed a combination of grass, hay, grains, etc? [Ray S.]

This is a very difficult and complex question to answer with many moving parts to the equation. Not surprisingly there is no general scientific consensus regarding whether GHG emissions are really reduced.  Here’s why..

It is possible to manage cattle on pastures to see an increase in soil carbon sequestration.  However, this is often not done due to cattle management practices and use of pesticides. When done some claim there is no net carbon sequestered due to the amount of cow methane and fecal waste gas emissions that return to the atmosphere.

Grass fed beef take a longer time to grow and produce acceptable weights than do grain fed beef.  During this longer time, cattle continue to consume more water and emit more GHG wastes compared to the shorter time for grain fed beef. On the other hand, grain fed beef consume crops that require significant energy inputs to produce, cause pollution, and the processes of growing, fertilizing, harvesting, and shipping grains release abundant amounts of GHGs.

There are scientifically documented health advantages to consuming grass fed beef since there is less fat deposited in the meat and lower concentrations of harmful fats. How do we calculate the health benefits from consuming grass fed beef vs grain fed and put this into the GHG emission equation? Here are two short articles that take different sides on the answer to this great question.