....is made by a source of John Stossel in this interesting column. More or less, what the source does is measure carbon emissions, land use, and such for both grass-fed and corn-fed meat and dairy animals, and very consistently finds that modern feedlot methods use less land, emit less carbon, and even yield a fat content "similar to" that of grass fed animals.
As one who routinely buys grass fed beef, however, I've got to quibble more than a little with the claim that the differences in fat content are minor; when one compares the marbling on feedlot beef to that of grass fed animals, the difference is visible to the casual observer. There is simply a LOT more fat on the animal, and even the meat is of a different color--grass fed is a much deeper red, closer to the color of bison meat. Whether it makes a major difference in health is up to debate, but the differences in fat percentage and content are not exactly subtle.
Moreover, is it accurate to simply count the carbon "emitted" (breathed) by cattle without accounting for the carbon sequestration inherent in natural patures? To draw a picture, a century of corn farming had left Joel Salatin's land devoid of topsoil; 30 years of intensive grass based farming has to a great extent restored it. The reestablishment of topsoil where pasturing is used, and the removal of topsoil via the plow, represents a huge carbon impact. To neglect this factor is simply to not do a full analysis.
In short, I view Stossel's source as incomplete at best. However, there is one thing we can both agree on, I think; end corn subsidies, and let's let farmers and consumers make their own choices in the matter.
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