The Cow Conundrum

Wildlife biologist and grazing guru Allan Savory continues to garner attention on the global stage. In the pages of this magazine, Judith Schwartz covered his concept of holistic management of grasslands with the strategic use of cattle (“Greener Pastures,” Summer 2011). His method for moving grazing animals helps sequester carbon in the soil and fight back desertification. Schwartz’s profile of Savory led her to investigate other ways that cows can be an environmental boon, and her work culminated in a new book titled Cows Save the Planet (Chelsea Green, 2013). As for Savory himself, he presented at the TED2013 conference in Long Beach, California, this past February. His talk received rave reviews, with influential food writer and meat-minimalist Michael Pollan touting it as a TED highlight (“Eat MORE meat?”).

Not everyone was so quick to embrace Savory’s ideas. Agriculture expert and Conservation contributor James McWilliams noted in Slate how the talk failed to consider issues of scaling up the holistic management idea. For example, McWilliams points out that not all rangelands are created equally and that the grazing methods have not helped the prairie rangelands of North America. And even if we could scale up, eating more meat still may not be an option on the table; most grass-fed cows are led to slaughter at just 15 months. ❧

Above: Allan Savory at TED2013. Photo by James Duncan Davidson

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