In Two Days I Refute “Grazed and Confused.” Here’s one of my slides.
As many of you know, in two days, on June 23rd, 2022, I will be presenting at the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Show and Conference in the UK. In addition to presenting the science on soil carbon accrual via regenerative grazing, I will also reveal some of the many deficiencies of the seminal anti-animal agriculture report, “Grazed and Confused.” This document which was published in 2017 by the Oxford University-affiliated Food Climate Research Network has become a highly cited resource to debase animal agriculture and regenerative (extensive) animal agriculture in particular. As such, it has held back progress on one of the most important innovations in the history of agriculture and influenced food pundits, such as George Monbiot, to promote highly industrial and environmentally deleterious fake meat solutions.
Like many such reports, Grazed ignores the coevolution of ruminants with grasslands that makes these predominant ecosystems such large carbon reservoirs in the first place.
Most troubling, however, and a matter for which its impartiality comes into doubt, is the fact that Grazed omits from its literature review peer-reviewed papers available at the time that would have shown both the necessity of grazing to build soil carbon on most of the earth that is a seasonal rainfall, semi-arid grassland ecosystem and the efficacy of regenerative grazing (by any name) to do so.
Some of the peer-reviewed papers of this type, available at the time and omitted by Grazed, are as follows:
Machmuller, M. B., Kramer, M. G., Cyle, T. K., Hill, N., Hancock, D., & Thompson, A. (2015). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter. Nature Communications, 6, 6995. doi:10.1038/ncomms7995 https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7995
Teague, W. R., Apfelbaum, S., Lal, R., Kreuter, U. P., Rowntree, J., Davies, C. A., R. Conser, M. Rasmussen, J. Hatfield, T. Wang, F. Wang, Byck, P. (2016). The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 71(2), 156–164. doi:10.2489/jswc.71.2.156 http://www.jswconline.org/content/71/2/156.full.pdf+html
Rowntree, J., Ryals, R., Delonge, M., Teague, R. W., Chiavegato, M., Byck, P., . . . Xu, S. (2016). Potential mitigation of midwest grass-finished beef production emissions with soil carbon sequestration in the United States of America. Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture & Society, 4(3), 8. https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/potential-mitigation-of-midwest-grass-finished-beef-production-em.
Retallack, G. (2013). Global Cooling by Grassland Soils of the Geological Past and Near Future (Vol. 41, pp. 69–86): Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-earth-050212-124001
Had these papers been included, the tenor of the document would have necessarily been modified.
Additionally, since the publication of Grazed, subsequent peer-reviewed papers have further demonstrated significant soil carbon accrual as well as other improvements in ecological measures. Some of these papers are:
Rowntree JE, Stanley PL, Maciel ICF, Thorbecke M, Rosenzweig ST, Hancock DW, Guzman A and Raven MR (2020) Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 4:544984. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2020.544984
Kurtz, D. et al. (2020) IMPACTO DEL PASTOREO EN PROPIEDADES FISICO-QUIMICAS DE UN PSAMMACUENT EN PASTIZALES DEL NORDESTE ARGENTINO (The impact of grassland management on physical and chemical properties of a psammaquent in northeastern Argentina) REVISTA ARGENTINA DE PRODUCCIÓN ANIMAL VOL 40 N° 2: 1–13 (2020) https://www.crea.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2020-PP-Kurtz-Ditmar-y-otros.pdf
Stanley, P. L., Rowntree, J. E., Beede, D. K., DeLonge, M. S., & Hamm, M. W. (2018). Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems, 162, 249–258. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X17310338?via%3Dihub
Attached is a slide that is a remake of Figure 9, page 63, from Grazed, that shows how it could look today if even some of the peer-reviewed papers showing positive results for regenerative grazing that were available at the time, and others since, were included and properly placed. There is obviously a cluster showing a CO2 drawdown rate of between 7.71 and 13.18 tons per hectare per year, with an average of 10.01.
The fact that there has been no update to Grazed with these findings, nor notices from the Food Climate Research Network about them, suggests that the Food Climate Research Network is not, in fact, an impartial institution. In any case, it is not exemplar of the scholarly excellence that would be expected from Oxford University. Measures should be taken to rectify this problem and Grazed can not be ethically cited as an authoritative word on this matter. To do so would be knowingly misrepresentative.