So...veggie or not?
Let’s start by saying we followed a near vegan lifestyle for 17 years.
So we are not opposed to it.
But, it’s not all glory and it doesn’t necessarily reduce your carbon footprint. Really. The planet we are on has a rhythm and seasons. You got to go with the flow and take what it gives you.
It’s less about plant vs. meat than how you go about it.
Regardless of your preference, soil is not just that ‘dirty’ stuff out back, it is your black gold.
Here is why taking care of your soil is MORE important than planting trees:
Globally soil contains more carbon than all the Earth's plants and atmosphere combined. Much of this carbon can be found in soils beneath grasslands, which are estimated to cover 20-40% of the Earth's surface. Amongst biomes, grasslands are the third largest global store of carbon – after wetlands and boreal forests*.
So do we want to strip it to plant veggies? No, we really don’t.
The UK has more than 700 different soil types, and with a climate is ideal for growing grass for animals to eat, this definitely seems like a smart thing to do.
Around 65% of farmland in the UK is best suited to growing grass rather than other crops. If we did not graze livestock on it, we could not use it to produce food.
Grazing livestock on this land allows us to turn inedible grass into high quality, nutrient-rich beef and lamb. This land also provides a valuable habitat for many native wildlife species that need open grassland to forage, such as hedgehogs and lapwings.
Sheep also produce wool, carrots don’t. Wool offers a range of solutions to problems we currently face. It is 100% natural, a renewable fibre source as sheep produce a new fleece every year, and is biodegradable. But we only have this fantastic natural resource if we have a profitable livestock industry.
Soil increases our resilience to climate change by locking in greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. You release the storage by planting plants (yeah), soil erosion, leaching into waterways and removal of grass by harvesting or grazing animals.
Likewise, carbon dioxide sequestered by trees, is released back out into the atmosphere if the tree is cut down (bad idea). And they ‘breathe’ out carbon dioxide too, you know. Just like us.
What makes a healthy soil? Animals. We need the manure to reduce the use of fertilisers. Animals give you biodiversity.
We are not defending an overconsumption of meat here… according to research, the average person will chomp down on 7,000 animals during their lives. This figure breaks down to 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 30 sheep and 4,500 fish.
That is not sustainable either.
Balance: secure some good grasslands out back and convert your dirty soil to green gold.
*extra note here: boreal forests are dominated by species of spruce, fir, pine, larch, birch, and aspen. Their forest floors are usually covered with mosses and many species of wildflowers.
It is not a rainforest.
"Tropics may now emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb," by Carolyn Gramling. November, 2017.
"What is soil health and why does it matter?" by Countryside. December, 2019.
"New research on carbon sequestration and grassland," by Farm Carbon Toolkit. July, 2016.
"Breeding to reduce methane emissions from Beef Cattle," by Farm Carbon Toolkit. October, 2019.