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Grace on the Grass

I often make references to grass-fed livestock. This would seem to be an obvious concept, a pasture full of cows is still something that my generation might remember from childhood, before livestock was banned from suburbia for being stinky and attracting flies. Mom and I used to buy our milk (and ice cream!) at the local dairy. You could watch the cows come in from the field and go into their spot in the barn. They would get their udders washed and the milker attached, and would stand munching hay while they were relieved of their burden. Then off they would go, back out to the pasture. These cows were clean and healthy. It was obvious when you looked at them. The farm was a transparent operation, and their handling practices were there for all the world to see.

And while this is assuredly a big step up from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), this is not quite what I mean by grass-fed.

I am referring to rotational or “pulsed” grazing. I look for producers that use this method because it is not only the most natural and healthy way of living for herbivores, but also because it is good for the planet on many levels.

When herbivores move about in natural environments (and by “natural” I mean those that include predators) they gather tightly together, moving in a close group to protect against predation. They leave piles of manure and trampled ground behind them. A day or two later the birds come in and pick the larvae out of the muck and scatter the manure, protecting the larger animals from parasite infection while getting a good meal. Thanks to some modern innovations like portable electric fencing and mobile chicken coops, this pattern can effectively be mimicked by farmers and ranchers in a variety of environments. The herbivores and chickens are more healthy because they are eating what Nature intended them to eat, and because their pasture is being rotated, the food is always fresh and tasty. (Did you know that cows should not eat grain and that chickens are omnivores?)

But pulsed grazing has profound implications for the planet. When and herbivore takes one – and only one – bite of grass, that grass sheds some root, which then breaks down into loam, and re-grows, thicker than before. In that loam is carbon. Carbon that the plant has pulled from the atmosphere and that is now bound into the soil. Well-managed grassland can tie up as much (or more) carbon as the same amount of forest. Increased loam also absorbs and holds more water, which reduces flooding. But even better, pulsed grazing can restore profoundly damaged habitats and increase biodiversity. Read more about that here. Pulsed grazing is a vital ballet that enriches the Earth and all her children. To find meat, eggs and dairy from grass-fed livestock, go to www.eatwild.com the best price for beef can be achieved by cow-pooling.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

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