More people want to consume meat in a more humane or ethical way, and grass-fed beef has been a large part of that equation. The grass-fed beef market is on the verge of a crisis though, as the levels of protein in the grass for grazing have decreased by 20 percent over the last twenty-five years. Jonah Ventures of Boulder, CO analyzed 50,000 cow pies from Texas and found that the nutritional content of the grass is down, leading to smaller cattle. According to Joe Craine, the co-owner and a researcher at Jonah Ventures, “If we were still back at the forage quality that we would’ve had 25 years ago, no less 100 years ago, our animals would be gaining a lot more weight…”
Two Likely Reasons
Researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact reason for the declining nutritional content of grass, but there are two likely suspects. Grass-fed, grain-finished cattle are moved from the prairie to a feedlot for the last 90 to 160 days of their lives. This move takes away cow pies, the best means of returning valuable nutrients back to the soil.
Another reason for the decline of nutritious? The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is causing plants to grow larger, more quickly with the same nutrient content. According to Irakli Loladze, a mathematician studying the effect of CO2 on pants for 15 years, “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising…We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”
It All Begins With Food
There aren’t many people talking about what happens when our food is no longer able to sustain us. As many beef farmers are now finding out, that time is fast approaching. It doesn’t really matter why the grass is no longer as nutritious. The most important thing here is that it’s happening to the cows, and it will happen to us.
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- Soaring Popularity Of Grass-Fed Beef May Hit Roadblock: Less Nutritious Grass – NPR
- Grass-fed beef is threatened by nutritionally-deficient grass – TreeHugger
- Climate Change Causing Less Nutrition, More Sugar In Our food – Organic Lifestyle Magazine
- A Look At The Grain-Finished Vs. Grass-Finished Beef Debate – Grill Beast