It would certainly require more land when you’re talking about cattle, and I’ve never seen a good calculation, but I don’t think it’s an amount of land that couldn’t be found. There is data [pointing to the fact that] pasture is an incredibly good use of land, compared to crop land.
Earlier this year, there was a lot of discussion of a study that said that grass-finished beef accounted for more greenhouse gas emissions than corn-finished beef. What’s your take on data like that?
I have heard evidence that when you have range-fed animals, especially if they’re on poor quality range, that they produce more methane than feedlot animals. But, because the overall GHG emissions are so much less when you’re talking about traditional meat production versus factory style or feedlot production, it’s not a compelling argument just to isolate that one issue.
I looked at a paper out of Scotland that linked emissions to grass fed animals that were raised on land with a lot of agricultural chemicals applied to it — herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. The majority of cattle in the US are living on land that has not been chemically treated and certainly has not been fertilized. It’s also possible to provide fairly simple supplements in the form of a mineral lick, etc. that will actually reduce enteric emissions from cattle grazing on poor quality pasture. There are a number of different ways that it can be addressed and I honestly think it’s kind of a red herring.
Do you see signs that big agribusiness is taking notice and feeling threatened by the movement to produce and eat meat in a new way?
I think that we’re getting close to a tipping point. There are enough people who have enough information and agribusiness has had to face the fact that none of this is going away. When I started working on these issues eight years ago, the mainstream food industry still thought that if they just kept ignoring the opposition, it would go away. Now, they recognize there’s writing on the wall — people are more interested in knowing where their food is coming from, they’re more concerned about food safety. They care about quality, seasonality, food miles, etc. — all these concepts are coming into mainstream parlance that were French a decade ago.
Thank you for posting this interview, I think her voice is incredibly important for today's ongoing food revolution!