Grasslands and its investors now control slightly more than 100,000 acres of land on its four ranches, and they intend to acquire more. (This year’s massive drought may slow their plans.) To demonstrate the environmental benefits of its methods, Grasslands has hired a firm called LandEKG (get it?) to monitor the health of its land. It’s also inviting environmentalists to visit.
Louisa Willcox of the NRDC, a Montana-based wildlife expert with a forestry degree from Yale, visited a Grasslands ranch near Broadus, Mont., as well as the J-L Ranch in the Centennial Valley west of Yellowstone Park, which uses holistic methods to raise Yellowstone grass-fed beef. She came away hopeful.
“I thought they were really exemplary in what they were trying to do,” she says. ”There’s a whole generation of younger ranchers coming up who realize that the way their grandfathers did things may not make sense anymore, and that there are new markets that may be explored.”
Others at NRDC are skeptical, I’m told. There’s more to say about this, and I hope to return to the topic again, and give some space to the dissenters — who, as always, are encouraged to comment below. What the debate over grazing tells me is that we need a better framework to measure the impacts of ranching, as well as the rest of the food system.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to meeting Howell at the FORTUNE Brainstorm Green conference April 29 to May 1. With BSR’s Aron Cramer, I’ll be moderating a panel about “the future of protein” where we’ll hear from Howell and from Clarence Otis Jr., the CEO of Darden, about their efforts to sustainably produce meat and fish. World-class ultrarunner and vegan Scott Jurek will be joining us, too — we don’t want to leave out the vegetarians!
Photo of brown cow and white bull provided by Martina I. Meyer via Shutterstock