Five ways local, pasture raised meat is better for the Earth.
April 18, 2023
We are all tasked with being caretakers of this earth, and the choice to eat local, regeneratively raised, pastured meat and eggs is a choice made in favor of the environment.
Every day of the year.
Much of the time it’s a choice that simply feels good. Something about it resonates with our soul and our consciousness - and our primal awareness of our connection to the earth is not something we should take lightly.
Even if we can’t spout facts and numbers off the top of our heads, many of us intuitively understand that a local, pasture-based system is better for the health of the animals, ourselves, and the earth.
But with this Saturday being Earth Day, it’s a fitting time to go to the heart of that intuitive knowledge with just a few of the many truths behind the intuition.
Each of these concepts has whole books (if not libraries) dedicated to it.
But, in a few words, here are five ways that the One Straw stewardship choices you support with your food decisions are better for the Earth.
#1 Carbon Sequestration.
- Multiple independent studies now demonstrate that grasslands managed actively to maximize growth create productive carbon sinks.
- Not unmanaged, stagnant meadows abandoned to grow only once to maturity. Not pasture overgrazed and beaten down constantly to the smoothness of a putting green.
- But grass that grows, is grazed, and grows again and again during the growing season – creating a pumping action pulling carbon into the soil.
- This is how the richest (and most carbon-dense) soils in the world were created. Think buffalo on the Great Plains, antelope on the Serengeti…
#2 Improving the Water Cycle.
- Healthy, active soil in managed pasture (see #1) increases water retention and water quality.
- Retaining water in the soil is one of the chief ways to combat drought, which even in the notoriously damp PNW we battle every year from June-September.
- Water retention is intricately united to the health of soil life (bacteria and fungi) which directly correlates back to carbon sequestration abilities (see again #1).
- Water stored in the soil is slowly released to feed plants and our streams, supporting healthy fish populations when they need it most.
#3 Reduced Transportation Cost.
- The distance traveled by most commercial meat is staggering.
- Our animals never leave the State and much of their feed is WA grown.
- We personally know the hardworking, dedicated people that process our meat and the local farmers who raise the hay for our cows and the grain for our pigs and chickens.
#4 Habitat Diversity.
- Diverse pastures, grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, are thriving habitats for countless species of birds, insects (including pollinators), rodents, amphibians, predators and abundant soil life.
- Grasses, forbs, and wild flowers coexist in every stage of maturity, interspersed with trees, brush, and un-grazed areas, providing constant food and protection for thriving ecosystems.
- Contrasted to feedlot or CAFO operations, there is no comparison in ecological benefit.
#5 Fertility Management.
- Manure from animals managed on pasture is a benefit for the environment rather than the hazard it becomes in feedlot and CAFO situations.
- To the commercial system, manure is a waste that contaminates water and must be expensively managed.
- For a pasture-based system it is worth its weight in gold as the source of fertility that drives carbon sequestration, water cycle improvement and habitat diversity.
- See photos below for a visual representation of the power of livestock manure on pasture!
As consumers and as farmers, it is our privilege to be stewards of the earth.
Our privilege and our responsibility.
As regenerative farmers we feel the weight of that responsibility and we know you do, too.
Because as a conscious consumer you know that the food you choose is a vote for the agriculture system that creates that food.
The responsibility is great, but we are so excited about what we’ve already been able to accomplish together!
Each fruitful season, each successful year - even with the necessary failures and surprises mixed in along the way - bring us closer to our bigger goals.
And we have big plans for the future – a future involving the sweep of decades and forces we don’t even know are coming.
Concepts like silvopasture, mixed perennial systems, vibrant health, and bio mimicry stir in our minds.
Stay tuned. We’re on a limitless ride together as thoughtful stewards of this beautiful Earth.
Farmhand Baby Grace and Guardian Tillie demonstrate the effect of extra fertility on an area of early Spring pasture.
With animals in constant motion, we don't often pause to photo document the visual evidence of the effects of fertility on soil health. And much of the change we witness is slowly sustained from season to season.
But occasionally we get a good opportunity to capture the process. In this series of photos from last spring, when Farmhand Grace was still a baby willing to sit in the stroller, the effects of extra fertility are apparent in early, speedy, lush grass growth.
These extra fertile areas are where our mobile chicken shelter - the Ritz Cluckin - was temporarily parked all over the pastures the previous year. Because the floor of the chicken shelter is mesh, the soil underneath takes full advantage of the concentrated fertilizer the chickens provide at night and when they go in for shelter, to lay eggs, or to eat.
Below you can see how the grass is just at the wheels on the near side, but reaching over baby Grace's sleepy head in the chicken manure fertilized patch.
Farmhands Eli and Vera enjoy the tall waving grasses as impromptu forts.
Notice how the pasture further out is at Guardian Tillie's ankles, but the "fort" patch is over Vera's waist.
It's a pretty good hideout - you can't even see Eli!
Every day, each cow, pig and chicken on the farm is creating this same effect in miniature, spread all over the pastures.