We've long been fans of greenery-based diets for cows, because eating alfalfa and grass mitigates the concentration of methane in the animals' flatulence, which is a significant contributor to climate change. Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture ruled that for a cattle farm to be considered organic, its cows must be granted 120 days of pasture time per year, and 30 percent of the cows' nutritional intake must come from fresh grass. According to The Atlantic, the ruling was a long time coming.
Over at the USDA, it took more than a decade of complaints and advisory statements, reams of documents, a dairy symposium, five listening sessions, at least two comment periods, the overhaul of the USDA's National Organic Program, the new Obama administration, and vigorous lobbying by small dairy farmer groups to arrive at the same conclusion as these goats: ruminants such as cows prefer grass, and on organic farms they should be required to graze a minimum amount of pasture.The ruling was ultimately driven by a need to satisfy consumer expectations; people don't want to shell out extra money for organic meat and milk if they think that label is meaningless. Of course, nothing changes for non-organic meat, but it still feels like a step in the right direction.