How to Raise Livestock Sustainably

As you may have guessed by some (or a lot of) our content, we really, really like meat. Sadly, an awful lot of our current meat production isn’t very green: industrial meat farming can use up a lot of water and other resources, making it inefficient. Happily, a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences suggests that there’s a better way to raise beef.

Currently, most beef, goat, and sheep production happens in cleared pastures, where the animals consume grasses. This means more trees are cleared, more pesticides used, a loss of biodiversity, and contamination of waterways due to pesticide runoff, poor water retention, and artificial fertilized used to maintain the pasture.

However, researchers are advocating something different: a silvopastoral system. That is, having livestock graze in and amongst trees and shrubs.

So far, the benefits have been enormous. Roots encourage better soil retention, there’s less water runoff, it reduces the injury rate of livestock, and improves biodiversity. More to the point, researchers have seen an increase in milk production (3.5 kg per cow per day to 4.3 kg), and a sixty-three per cent increase in protein production.

So, rest assured: you can still have your steak without having to surrender your Prius.

Photo courtesy of Randy Pertiet

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