Best for people and environment

The left side of this fence is where holistic planned grazing was used.

The left side of this fence is where holistic planned grazing was used.

The view that fatty meat is the healthiest primary food for homo sapiens—that we are basically carnivores that also have a nifty fall-back ability to survive on plant foods in a pinch—raises a wider issue. It that were true, how could modern food production possibly shift from serving carbohydrate-centric to fat-centric eating patterns on any large modern scale. Virtually unquestioned conventional wisdom insists that “the environment” dictates lower, not higher, reliance on animal products.

In view of the long-term coevolution of grasslands and large herd animals, the truth may be the exact reverse. Indeed, even separate from human nutrition issues, properly managed large herd animals might be the only way to halt and reverse the large-scale environmental destruction caused by modern plant agriculture and poor land management. For example, environmental destruction caused by grain agriculture that helps feed cattle cannot be blamed on the cattle, which naturally thrive on grass rather than grain. And they can eat grass all by themselves. That's just how they roll.

Decades ago, Allan Savory set out to answer some pressing ecological questions quite independently of any such issues of ideal human nutrition. He arrived at the view that the most important and underestimated contemporary global issue is the mass desertification of grasslands. And he argues that there is one and only one way to effectively alter this process.

His breakthrough was to discover that desertification has not been caused by “overgrazing,” as is usually thought, but by mis-grazing. Earlier effects of mis-grazing were then reinforced by misguided reduction or removal of herds, which then made the problem still worse. Today, he and his institute teach methods of using proper management of herd animals to recover desertified land and transform it into far more biologically productive pastures using know-how assembled under the heading “holistic planned grazing.”

Holistic planned grazing, in my view, constitutes an evolutionary approach to land management. It recognizes and builds on the ancient co-evolutionary interplay between grassland flora and large fauna.

It also happens to produce a large potential population of herd animals thriving in environments quite natural to them that could serve as a major, nutrient-dense, modern food supply. Moreover, it is also politically notable that herding can be more decentralized and distributed than mass grain agriculture, enhancing local self-reliance and independence.

White Oak Pastures in Georgia, USA provides an inspiring example of transformation of a formerly conventional ranch. Using multi-species holistic management, it has not only spectacularly recovered burned-out agricultural land, but is also breathing new life into a town that had been nearly deserted.