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Dr. Peter Ballerstedt

Allan Savory

Addressing global desertification & destabilising climate though holistic management

Dr. Sara Place

Animal Scientist. Sustainability research for beef farmers and ranchers.

  • Research Gate Publications

  • Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States - 2019 FullText

    The environmental impacts of beef cattle production and their effects on the overall sustainability of beef have become a national and international concern. Our objective was to quantify important environmental impacts of beef cattle production in the United States. Surveys and visits of farms, ranches and feedlots were conducted throughout seven regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Northwest and Southwest) to determine common practices and characteristics of cattle production. These data along with other information sources were used to create about 150 representative production systems throughout the country, which were simulated with the Integrated Farm System Model using local soil and climate data. The simulations quantified the performance and environmental impacts of beef cattle production systems for each region. A farmgate life cycle assessment was used to quantify resource use and emissions for all production systems including traditional beef breeds and cull animals from the dairy industry. Regional and national totals were determined as the sum of the production system outputs multiplied by the number of cattle represented by each simulated system. The average annual greenhouse gas and reactive N emissions associated with beef cattle production over the past five years were determined to be 243 ± 26 Tg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and 1760 ± 136 Gg N, respectively. Total fossil energy use was found to be 569 ± 53 PJ and blue water consumption was 23.2 ± 3.5 TL. Environmental intensities expressed per kg of carcass weight produced were 21.3 ± 2.3 kg CO2e, 155 ± 12 g N, 50.0 ± 4.7 MJ, and 2034 ± 309 L, respectively. These farm-gate values are being combined with post farm-gate sources of packing, processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste handling to produce a full life cycle assessment of U.S. beef. This study is the most detailed, yet comprehensive, study conducted to date to provide baseline measures for the sustainability of U.S. beef.

  • Positioning for the Future of Beef Production - Focus on Sustainability

    Sustainability is about balancing economic, social, and environmental concerns and positive attributes (i.e., the triple bottom line) and having a long-term focus (i.e., meeting the needs of the present without sacrifi cing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; UN, 1987). Much of the focus in recent years on beef and sustainability has been on environmental impacts, and in particular, beef’s higher environmental footprints (e.g., carbon, water, and land) relative to other foods when expressed per pound or per unit of crude protein (Poore and Nemecek, 2018). The relative diff erences in environmental footprints of foods has led to recommendations to consume more plantbased foods, or switch to pork, poultry, and fi sh over beef. Additionally, the environmental footprints of beef and other animal proteins has been a key focus of so-called “plantbased meats” and is a driving force behind the development of cell culture-derived muscle tissues that are yet to come to market. Ultimately, a prevailing narrative in food-informed and environmentally-concerned consumer, media, and investment circles has been “eat less meat for better human and planetary health” or “less meat, less heat” referring to curbing climate change by consuming fewer animal-derived foods, with a focus on beef.

  • Management characteristics of beef cattle production in the eastern United States

  • Animal welfare and environmental issues

  • Human Performance Outliers Podcast with hosts Dr. Shawn Baker and Zach BitterEpisode 36: Dr. Sara Place

Diana Rodgers

Real Food Nutritionist | Speaker | Author | Living on a Working Organic Farm | Sustainable Dish Podcast | Sacred Cow Film Project

  • Sustainable Dish

  • Sacred Cow Flyer

    About The Project The Case for Better Meat

    At our grocery stores and dinner tables, even the most thoughtful consumers are overwhelmed by the number of considerations to weigh when choosing what to eat—especially when it comes to meat. Guided by the noble principle of least harm, many responsible citizens resolve the ethical, environmental and nutritional conundrum by quitting meat entirely. But can a healthy, resilient and conscientious food system exist without animals?

    Sacred Cow probes the fundamental moral, environmental and nutritional quandaries we face in raising and eating animals. In this project, we focus our lens on the largest and perhaps most maligned of farmed animals, the cow.


    • Red meat causes cancer, obesity and heart disease.

    • We’re eating too much meat.

    • Humans don’t need to consume animal products to be healthy.

    • Raising livestock is bad for the environment .

    • It’s unethical to eat animals.

    • If we can produce meat in labs, then why should we eat animals?

    The connection between nutrition and ecosystem health is starting to make some headway into mainstream media. Everyone is trying to figure out how to feed the world in the most sustainable and healthy way. However, we’ve allowed corporate interest, big food, flawed science, click-bait media and naïve celebrities to steer us away from what a truly nutrient-dense, ethical and sustainable, and regenerative food system really is. The mantra that “all meat is bad” influences how we’re training dietitians, shaping our dietary guidelines, designing school lunch policies, and funding for nutrition-related research.

    As we’ve become more globalized, the entire world is now pushing towards the “heart healthy” (and highly processed) Western diet. In the process, we’re destroying entire ecosystems and human health through industrial, ultra-processed food.

    Sacred Cow comes at a critical point in the nutrition and sustainability story. A meat tax is a very real possibility. Well intended yet highly misguided, The EAT Lancet Global Dietary Guidelines are calling for less than 1/2 an ounce of red meat per day, for human and planetary health.

    Meat is being vilified as causing cancer, heart disease and diabetes, yet there are no solid studies to back this up. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley has invested millions in highly processed meat alternatives, with the assumption that engineering our proteins in factories will be a better alternative to something nature has already figured out: grazing animals, restoring land while converting cellulose into protein.


    The truth is, well-managed cattle are the unlikely heroes of this story. We can increase biodiversity, improve soil health, increase the water holding capacity of the land and raise high quality, nutrient-dense protein, while preserving family farming communities. Removing these animals from our food system could cause more harm than good.

    It’s not the cow, it’s the how.

    Robb and Diana are co-authoring the film’s companion book, Sacred Cow: The Case for Meat, launching in June 2020.

Frank Mitloehner PhD

Frank M. Mitloehner

University of California, DavisUCD · Department of Animal Science

PhD, Professor & CE Specialist

I am a faculty member in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. We are specialized in measurements and mitigation of greenhouse gases, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and particulate matter and the study of their effects on human- and animal health and welfare. In short, our lab investigates the nexus of agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

  • Research gate Profile

  • Addressing the 2050 Food Challenge – a Sustainable Solution Must Include Livestock.

    By 2050, Earth will be home to nearly 10 billion people, a tripled human population during our lifetime. Only 1.8% of the Earth’s surface is arable land that can be used for growing crops, a resource not likely to increase, which means the amount of cropland per person will decline by 20% (1). In the face of finite resources and a changing climate, we need sustainable solutions to the 2050 food challenge. Our current food system is often criticized for not addressing chronic undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. And agriculture does contribute to issues of environmental sustainability. Livestock production is often seen as particularly egregious, and some people say we can better meet the 2050 food challenge by limiting or eliminating animal-source foods from our diet. Critics of animal agriculture go as far as to claim that globally, livestock produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. Less livestock production would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide more food for humans by decreasing feed needed for livestock, and free up rangeland and feedlots for crop production. In short - Eat less meat to save the environment. At first glance, this simple solution seems elegant and one that should be readily adopted. However, the truth is far more complicated as discussed in the present paper.

  • Review: Modeling production and environmental impacts of small ruminants—Incorporation of existing ruminant modeling techniques, and future directions for research and extension

    Mathematical models are a useful part of extension and researcher collaboration with producers and policymakers. Although many models of large ruminant production ex-ist, with a wide variety of objectives and users, the range available to small ruminant producers is limited. This re-view summarizes the current state of models available to small ruminant research, identifies data gaps that could be filled to improve representation of current small ruminant production practices, and suggests a framework that could be used to develop a suite of models to improve small ruminant research at the research and consultant levels and research and teaching levels and to improve system-level assessment of environmental impacts.

    Key words: sheep, environmental assessment, ruminant nutrition, model development, grazing

  • Human Performance Outliers Podcast with hosts Dr. Shawn Baker and Zach Bitter Episode 39: Professor Frank Mitloehner

  • Human Performance Outliers Podcast with hosts Dr. Shawn Baker and Zach Bitter Episode 77: Professor Frank Mitloehner

Nicolette Hahn Niman

The case for sustainable meat -The manifesto of an environmental lawyer & vegetarian turned cattle rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman

  • Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

    For decades it has been nearly universal dogma among environmentalists and health advocates that cattle and beef are public enemy number one.

    But is the matter really so clear cut? Hardly, argues environmental lawyer turned rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman in her new book, Defending Beef.

    The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations.

    In Defending Beef, Hahn Niman argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe. Hahn Niman argues that dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms can and should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment.

    The author―a longtime vegetarian―goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false. She shows how foods from cattle―milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass―are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.

    Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils to mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.

    Defending Beef is simultaneously a book about big ideas and the author’s own personal tale―she starts out as a skeptical vegetarian and eventually becomes an enthusiastic participant in environmentally sustainable ranching.

    While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

Lierre Keith

Joel Salatin

Healing the earth with good food. Author of 8 books. Featured in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Ominvore’s Dillemma, Food Inc.

Sheldon Frith

Holistic Management and Regenerative Agriculture practitioner and writer.

Gabe Brown

David R. Montgomery

Heather Smith Thomas

John Nicholson

Belinda Fettke

Adam Danforth

Julius Ruechel

Geoff Maynard

Tony Lovell

Maureen Ogle

  • In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

    The moment European settlers arrived in North America, they began transforming the land into a meat-eater’s paradise. Long before revolution turned colonies into nation, Americans were eating meat on a scale the Old World could neither imagine nor provide: an average European was lucky to see meat once a week, while even a poor American man put away about two hundred pounds a year.

    Maureen Ogle guides us from that colonial paradise to the urban meat-making factories of the nineteenth century to the hyperefficient packing plants of the late twentieth century. From Swift and Armour to Tyson, Cargill, and ConAgra. From the 1880s cattle bonanza to 1980s feedlots. From agribusiness to today’s “local” meat suppliers and organic countercuisine. Along the way, Ogle explains how Americans’ carnivorous demands shaped urban landscapes, midwestern prairies, and western ranges, and how the American system of meat making became a source of both pride and controversy.

Judith D. Schwartz

  • Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth

    In Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems―climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity―there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil.

    Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. For example, land can suffer from undergrazing as well as overgrazing, since certain landscapes, such as grasslands, require the disturbance from livestock to thrive. Regarding climate, when we focus on carbon dioxide, we neglect the central role of water in soil―”green water”―in temperature regulation. And much of the carbon dioxide that burdens the atmosphere is not the result of fuel emissions, but from agriculture; returning carbon to the soil not only reduces carbon dioxide levels but also enhances soil fertility.

    Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil’s pivotal role in our ecology and economy, a call to action, and an antidote to the despair that environmental news so often leaves us with.

Wendy Pratt

Stephanie Anderson

  • One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture

    “Sustainable” has long been the rallying cry of agricultural progressives; given that much of our nation’s farm and ranch land is already degraded, however, sustainable agriculture often means maintaining a less-than-ideal status quo. Industrial agriculture has also co-opted the term for marketing purposes without implementing better practices. Stephanie Anderson argues that in order to provide nutrient-rich food and fight climate change, we need to move beyond sustainable to regenerative agriculture, a practice that is highly tailored to local environments and renews resources.

    In One Size Fits None Anderson follows diverse farmers across the United States: a South Dakota bison rancher who provides an alternative to the industrial feedlot; an organic vegetable farmer in Florida who harvests microgreens; a New Mexico super-small farmer who revitalizes communities; and a North Dakota midsize farmer who combines livestock and grain farming to convert expensive farmland back to native prairie. The use of these nontraditional agricultural techniques show how varied operations can give back to the earth rather than degrade it. This book will resonate with anyone concerned about the future of food in America, providing guidance for creating a better, regenerative agricultural future.

Maryn McKenna

  • Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats

    In this eye-opening exposé, acclaimed health journalist and National Geographic contributor Maryn McKenna documents how antibiotics transformed chicken from local delicacy to industrial commodity—and human health threat—uncovering the ways we can make America’s favorite meat safer again.

    What you eat matters—for your health, for the environment, and for future generations. In this riveting investigative narrative, McKenna dives deep into the world of modern agriculture by way of chicken: from the farm where it’s raised directly to your dinner table. Consumed more than any other meat in the United States, chicken is emblematic of today’s mass food-processing practices and their profound influence on our lives and health. Tracing its meteoric rise from scarce treat to ubiquitous global commodity, McKenna reveals the astounding role of antibiotics in industrial farming, documenting how and why “wonder drugs” revolutionized the way the world eats—and not necessarily for the better. Rich with scientific, historical, and cultural insights, this spellbinding cautionary tale shines a light on one of America’s favorite foods—and shows us the way to safer, healthier eating for ourselves and our children.


Human Performance Outliers Podcast

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