18 Organizations Working to Improve Livestock Management Practices
Categories: On The Farm
Raising livestock provides livelihoods for an estimated one billion people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Many small farmers in developing countries own livestock, including cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, donkeys, ducks, geese, llamas, turkeys, grasscutters, and other animals.
Livestock can provide a nutritious source of protein for women and families, manure for fertilizer, fuel for stoves and heat, transportation, consumption of food scraps and waste, and management of weeds and insects. Livestock can also act as a form of savings or as a walking credit card, according to the FAO, thereby allowing families to sell off animals to pay for health care or school.
Unfortunately, industrial livestock operations, or factory farms, can be very resource intensive, polluting ground and surface water, emitting greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to the spread of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance. According to the FAO, industrial livestock systems account for 74 percent of the world’s total poultry production, 40 percent of pig meat, and 68 percent of eggs.
But not all meat is created equal. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), numerous studies indicate grass-fed beef has less saturated and mono-unsaturated fat and more nutrients than grain-fed beef. Consuming organic, grass-fed, and pastured-raised livestock also reduces eaters’ exposure to antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones, which are used in conventionally raised livestock. According to Nicolette Hahn Niman, livestock rancher and author of Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, “Cattle are key to the world’s most promising strategy to counter global warming: restoring carbon to the soil.” Grass-fed operations are better for the environment because cows are rotationally grazed, evenly distributing the manure, which helps reduce erosion and improve soil health. Furthermore, carbon can be sequestered to offset the methane emissions from cattle. Additionally, organic operations increase resistance to pests and weeds, while reducing pesticide and fertilizer use.
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