Grass Fed Beef & Global Warming

^ Clockwise from top: cattle grazing on Dartmoor above Venford Reservoir near Holne; Aberdeen Angus at the Blatchford Estate in the South Hams near Cornwood; Mark Gribble (centre) with our Fieldsman Rodney Cleave (right) and his brother Phil Cleave checking on the cattle on the high moor; Blatchford Estate Farm Manager with the herd of Aberdeen Angus; the estate where cattle are born on the farm and then driven up onto the moor in the spring where they are raised on open moorland where they are free to roam.


Much has been on the news recently about eating less meat due to the impact of livestock production on global warming, in particular beef & sheep farming. I am not writing this as a scientist, nor am I querying the research, however the world has a population of 7.7 billion people, that is 7 thousand & 7 hundred MILLION (7,700 million)! 65 million of us live in the UK, which equals less than 1% – 1 million of us being Devonians!

Obviously, we are mostly in control of our own actions, so both us and our forefathers are all responsible for the world population figures today, but we have to feed all these people in the best & most efficient way using our given resources.The world has a restricted land mass (30% land, 70% sea), so it is clear that we have to use that land as efficiently as possible especially as not all land areas are as fertile as others.

Some land is nutrient rich and is therefore good for crops and market gardening. Other land is not so rich and is therefore barren or used for growing grass. It is upon these green fields that beef & lamb is fattened for meat production, as those animals are the best way of converting grass into food. Beef and sheep are known as ‘ruminants’ and no other sort of animal will covert grass into food as efficiently as these two species.

Therefore, where there is grass it makes good sense to farm cattle & sheep, so this directly applies to Devon & the Westcountry, where we live!


Devon is famous for its patchwork fields and hedgerows. We have more country lanes and roads than any other English county. Farmers manage the fields – they graze livestock, grow & cut the grass for hay & silage, cut the hedges and manage our waterways. If none of this work were carried out then the land would turn to gorse, bracken & brambles and the hedgerows would become overgrown making our lanes & roads impassable.

We are an agricultural region with livestock and dairy at the forefront. No farming would mean no management of the countryside and the loss of its beauty and also no animals.


More intensive systems allow for the faster fattening of animals, for example; Bull beef, raised indoors and fed on barley, which means they can reach their kill weight at just 1 year old. Outdoor, slow reared grass-fed cattle can take up to 30 months and in other cases, such as rare breeds, this can be even longer.

The slower grown, properly farmed, grass fed beef is much better in terms of their welfare and the quality of eating, but obviously given the longer length of time the cattle take to grow, the more impact these systems may have on global warming. Faster fed & fattened cattle are generally less welfare friendly (in the USA they fatten cattle in feed lots, use of growth hormones etc.), but aren’t around as long and so perhaps have less of an effect on the damage to the environment?


 Gribble’s is set up around the ethos of Devon, local suppliers, local jobs and our countryside. We therefore strongly believe in balance, rather than some of the radical ideas being perceived. I think we all agree that our ‘countryside matters’ and local issues are paramount.

 Making use of our excellent Devon grass makes complete sense, as does producing food from our land in the most efficient manner. Not only do we deliver an outstanding product, but it also has many other advantages, such as; keeping local people in employment, keeping our countryside magnificent and it ensures the animals are not just intensively farmed, including the livestock on our moors.

 Ultimately, if we didn’t eat farmed animals, drink milk or eat cheese, then there wouldn’t be any farmed animals.  

 Obviously global warming is an important issue, but there has to be a balance with some common sense integrated in to our farming. Eating locally grown meat from the fields around us has many advantages, so maybe its quality over quantity and looking after our own area that should be the priority with respect to environmental issues.