Behind The 'Graze Craze': The Environmental Impacts Of Grazing Ruminants
An Environmental Article from


Celine Icard-Stoll, Faunalytics
November 2018

​Is consuming “grass-fed” animals truly a sustainable alternative? An extensive report suggests that may not be the case when it comes to our environment.

Photo by Hetty Stellingwerf on Unsplash

The Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) has released a new report on the relationship between grazing cows used for food and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This report was crafted to be a response to several arguments regarding ruminants and their negative impact on the environment.

What is a ruminant? A mammal that derives his or her nutrients through the cycle of chewing on plants, swallowing them, allowing them to ferment in the stomach, regurgitating, chewing again, and so on. We all probably know the cliché of the cow chewing on her cud, but ruminants also include sheep, llamas, and camels. The FCRN report primarily focuses on the GHG emissions – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – that are released by cows who graze in grass pastures. These cows – who are ultimately used for food – are part of what’s referred to as a “grazing system.”

One last consideration should be made to the amount of land grazing systems require. Creating space for grazing ruminants is the primary reason for human-driven deforestation and the associated release of carbon dioxide. There is a risk that we will continue losing grasslands as a consequence of seeking greater “efficiencies” in grazing systems (in addition to plowing these lands and using them for crops). As the demand for meat from ruminants increases due to an ever-growing population, more of our land resources will be lost.

For the entire report, go to Behind The ‘Graze Craze’: The Environmental Impacts Of Grazing Ruminants.

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