a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Stay with me here. I know what you’re thinking. After all, I became a vegetarian and then vegan at the age of 16 and I did it for the animals and for the planet. Following a lot of personal research, I returned to eating dairy and eggs after moving to Carrboro, where I was introduced first-hand to the natural and humane practices at local farms. I saw chickens completely free to roam (and in fact, hanging out on the farm-house porch), as well as contented cows and goats grazing in spacious pastures.

But could I eat meat again? I wasn’t completely sure. What about the land and the resources used to raise grazing animals? I’ve read about the carbon footprint created in this industry and the release of methane – a potent green-house gas. I needed to know more.

It turns out I didn’t have to look farther than my local Independent news source. Reporter, Suzanne Nelson does her homework and then goes directly to the source – the farmers – to give us the whole story. In fact, there is so much enlightening information, I encourage you to read the entire article here.

The bottom line turns out to be that animals grazing on small farms in fact keeps soils rich in nutrients and allows for the aerobic decomposition of manure, preventing the release of much methane into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cattle are raised in feedlots or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which, besides being inhumane, is proven to be an environmental disaster in every way.

Here’s a couple of excerpts and only a few of the fascinating facts of raising our animals in humane and environmentally sane ways. Read more!

Rich, fertile soil contains large quantities of carbon. Poor soils contain very little. So grazing cows on depleted soils not only makes the land more fertile, in the porcess it traps carbon. Happily for climate stability, the process of making soils rich in organic matter, and thus carbon, can be accomplished relatively quickly. And the catalyst is the presence of ruminants.

Yet by far the most abundant contributor to nitrous oxide emissions [300 times as potent as methane in terms of greenhouse gas] is “agricultural soil management, ” according to the EPA. And here again, feedlot animal operations – and the chemical fertilizers used to grow crops when cows are taken off small farms – are directly connected.

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