I have read a few articles recently that say that grass-fed beef, even though healthier to eat, may not be healthy for the atmosphere. Now being a bit conspiracy minded at times, one thing that comes to mind is to wonder the true source of these articles. Might the conventional cattle industry be behind the stories? In reality, I doubt it. I think the grass-fed beef business is nothing but a fly on the back or the conventional beef industry. The huge difference in price between the two products keeps them from being real competitors. Plus one of the articles I read was in Discover magazine, which I have always felt is a pretty good source of accurate information.
The issue is as follows. Cattle are supposedly responsible for over 20% of methane emissions and methane contributes to global warming at a rate 20 times greater than CO2. Because of a hard to digest plant substance called lignin in grass, cattle raised on a grass diet have a large number of beneficial gut micro-organisms to digest the grass. The main unfortunate byproduct of this digestion is methane which is then burped up by the cows.
An Australian company has come up with a solution to this cow burp problem by developing a strain of grass that contains almost no lignin and is easy for cows to digest. Less burps equals less methane equals a greener cow, right? Well not so fast. The grass in question is genetically modified. Why do issues like this rarely have a simple clean solution?
The reality is that grass fed beef, because of its minute market share is probably not a big contributor to greenhouse gasses. I vote for deep-sixing the GMO grass and just letting the cows burp. What do you think?