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Are Plant-Based Substitutes Really Saving The Planet?

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We’re not here to argue, but to start a conversation surrounding both plant-based products and sustainable farming!


The critique of the widely accepted notion that cows are ruining our environment goes like this: we’re in a critical era of climate change and the planet is warming. As the concentration of carbon dioxide and other gasses skyrocket, so does the damage to mother earth.


From this point of view, anything that emits a gas only adds to the problem, namely the livestock that produce an abundance of methane and nitrous oxide gasses.


But, are there alternatives perspectives to navigate and solutions we aren’t seeing?


At Wagner Ag, understanding different farming practices is important and can help shift the agricultural industry while imparting more sustainable practices, and sometimes that begins with the farm equipment that is used! Dive deep into the discussion of plant-based foods and farming practices, and perhaps walk away, with some informative information!

Shifting the Environmental Paradigm


Judith D. Schwartz wrote a book, Cows Save The Planet, that tackles this very subject, seeing how every part of the ecosystem is vital to our survival and rewriting the narrative that cows are to blame for all of the greenhouse gases. In it, she dives deep into how decades of factory farming have ravaged the soil and that it’s our soil is what really really should be concerned about.


The thing is, good, rich topsoil is a thing of the past and we’re losing up to 83 billion tons of it annually, and this is becoming the crucial environmental issue. Depleted soil reflects in poor agricultural yields, the inability to absorb water, increases erosion, and kills any chance of biodiversity.


Soil, however, unlike water, is a renewable resource and can be overhauled and may even possibly be able to aid in helping to address climate change.


How does soil fight climate change? With its ability to trap carbon that would alternatively exist in the atmosphere, so when we cultivate healthy, rich soils we may be able to help mitigate some of our environmental issues.


Animals enter the scene because cows are the key to a healthy, microbial soil — their waste fertilizes the ground. It takes a more expansive perspective to look and solve environmental issues and the exquisite ecosystem we have and how it all works symbiotically.


The Other Side: Plant-Based Diets

The other side of the criticism is that to improve our environment, we should be eating an exclusively plant-based diet. The argument is that since no animal products are being consumed, disruptive greenhouse gasses lower.  


While this makes sense, there are a couple of different perspectives to consider.  


Research has pointed out that a diet high in produce and grains may not actually have more of an environmental impact than once perceived. Oftentimes, to meet calorie requirements that meat once served, a person has to consume more plant-based foods, thus using either the same or more nonrenewable resources such as water.  


Synthetic Ingredients


Plant-based foods also have an abundance of lab-produced, synthetic chemicals to replicate the taste and texture of meat. Take soy leghemoglobin (SLH) for example. This frankenfood is derived from genetically-engineered yeast that is part soybean part yeast. Not only are they both from monocrops that damage our soil but they are extremely labor-intensive — from creating the compound in the lab to a facility using fossil fuels to power production, and then, of course, shipping it to your grocery store.


The Concerns of Both Sides


While factory farming and plant-based diets may not be the solution, perhaps how we farm and how consume meat is. When we go back to traditional farming where cows graze and move freely from pasture to pasture helping to fortify the soil and continue the delicate balance of the ecosystem.  


In this manner, harmful ingredients that require a lot of processing and farming that disregards animal welfare, we can turn to a method that supports the animals, the land, and us.


Additionally, supporting regenerative farming and buying meat locally changes the supply chain and betters our environment.


Going back to the basics, in the case, may help repair the kand and foster a thriving ecosystem, benefiting everyone.


For more information on the irrigation systems and farm equipment we have, connect with us today!