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The ‘Beef’ With Beef: Cattle, Climate Change, And Alternative Meat

The ‘Beef’ With Beef: Cattle, Climate Change, And Alternative Meat

Many people might think of Blake Munger as a cattle farmer as he walks through his pasture land in western Kentucky, but he sees things a little differently nowadays.

“I don’t know which is more valuable, my cattle or the pasture at this point. I used to say cattle, but this plays a bigger role than the cattle,” Munger said, referring to the fields of fescue grass his black and red Angus cattle are grazing in.

He walks through the fields, pointing out how what’s growing in the pasture changes — from the flowering buttercup weeds to the more established fescue grass — indicating how “hard” the soil has been impacted by his cattle and other factors. When his cows have mowed down a field for a few days, he moves them to a new field to let the grass recover.

He and another local cattle farmer, Landon, didn’t start using rotational grazing until a handful of years ago to help improve the quality of the grass their cows were getting. But they also see another benefit to allowing the grass to grow: it can become a “carbon sink,” drawing down carbon dioxide from the air and fixing it in the plants and soil, mitigating the significant amount of emissions that come from the beef cattle industry.

Some recent studies show that sustainable agriculture practices such as rotational grazing can moderate the greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, something that’s crucial as agriculture contributes about 10% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

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