Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time, and people are doing everything they can to combat the negative effects. One of these solutions includes eating less meat in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by cattle, but what if eating meat helps fight climate change instead?
That's the idea that has been proposed by at least one Canadian farmer, who says that by raising grass-fed cattle, she's helping to fight against climate change.
Amber Payne, an Ottawa cattle farmer, told CBC News, "It hurts my soul to hear that we're viewing red meat as detrimental to climate change." She says that by allowing her cows to feed on plant life, she's helping more plant life to regenerate and trap carbon in the ground.
This idea runs contrary to a 2019 report issued by the United Nations. In it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended an increase in plant-based foods to free up more land and reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
However, raising grass-fed cattle can have an effect on reducing carbon as well. Ryan Katz-Rosene, a University of Ottawa professor and president of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada, told CBC that it's certainly possible for this type of farming to reduce carbon emissions, but more studies would need to be done on whether the grass can capture the same amount of carbon that cows produce.
There has been a lot of friction between vegans and farmers in Canada. Farmers are even starting to suffer from depression due to the amount of cyberbullying from some vegans.
So could all grassland for cattle be converted into other crops used in plant-based products? Dr. Raymond Desjardins, a senior research scientist at Agriculture Canada, doesn't think it's exactly wise to do so. He told CBC that if the grasslands were converted to other crops such as wheat, more carbon in the soil would be released into the atmosphere.
He added, however, that "having cattle eating grass is good, but it's not a magical solution for solving the climate change problem."
Katz-Rosene also pointed out that growing certain crops for plant-based foods might not necessarily be much better. "They could be in Kansas or something, and producing some massive mono crop of soy using glyphosate [chemical herbicide] and synthetic fertilizers and enormous amounts of diesel," he told CBC.
The key to fighting climate change, as with anything else, is finding the right balance. Payne recommends that people start to recognize where their food comes from, and try to find farmers who aim to be sustainable.
Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only.