I don't think the author, James McWilliams, has ever stepped foot on a farm that utilizes managed intensive grazing (e.g., the Salatin/Polyface model). It's fair to challenge whether studies conducted in Africa would work in North America, but specious statements like "cattle that grazed according to Savory’s method needed expensive supplemental feed, became stressed and fatigued, and lost enough weight to compromise the profitability of their meat," and "symbiosis between grazing herds and grasses has historically worked best to sequester carbon when the animals lived the entirety of their lives within the ecosystem, their carcasses rotted and returned their accumulated nutrients into the soil, and human intervention was minimal to none" make it clear that McWilliams has no idea of what farmers actually do, or what the soil health of these farms is, or even what managed intensive grazing involves.
Originally Posted by alg2435
The notion that pasture lands converted to monoculture farms does not lead to radical soil erosion and loss of quality is laughable. Likewise, the notion that pasture lands converted to industrial or residential usage would be better carbon locks. Much of the land used to raise livestock on pasture is otherwise not able to be used for agriculture - too rocky and unable to be plowed or tilled. And pasture farms that feature managed intensive grazing do act as carbon locks and barriers to flooding and erosion, in direct contradistinction to monoculture farms.
The author wanders down a side street of discussion on deserts and ecosystems, failing to see the point that we are watching more grass land converted to desert. A cryptobiotic crust may be “a complete and ancient ecosystem,” but that doesn't make it preferable to grasslands, either environmentally nor in terms of a sustainable food supply chain. Should we sit back and watch as more and more North American farms turn to dust? Great prescription.
The not-so-subtle agenda is contained in McWilliams's final line: "In the meantime, the evidence continues to suggest what we have long known: There’s no such thing as a beef-eating environmentalist. " And there you have it. I've met with dozens of sustainable, permaculture livestock farmers, and you'd be hard-pressed to find people more in tune with environmental concerns, or more knowledgeable about how to effect the best health for our soils and water. They will expound at length about various kinds of grasses, about soil microbiota, about mycelium and soil nutrients and on and on.
"I'm not a cattle farmer," one former electrical engineer told me once, "I'm a grass farmer. I make sure the grass grows to the proper desirability, then move the cattle around to eat it. All I do is convert the energy of the sun into grass, and the cows convert it into food." There was no smell of manure at his farm, or any of the other "grass farmers" oeprations I've visited, unlike CAFOs, where the manure sewers can be smelled from miles away. These farmers use little by way of fossil fuels, especially compared to industrial monouculture or CAFO farms; they use little irrigated water; all you see are green fields, and cows (and lambs and chickens and pigs) out in their paddocks.
You'll learn more from a farmer who knows his stuff than snotty little Mr. McWilliams's Slate piece. I invite you to do so.
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