In a 2018 research article written by Michigan State University researchers, it was determined that AMP (Adaptive Multi-Paddock) grazing basically offsets the carbon emissions of feedlot beef. The paper titled, “Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems” showed that techniques like holistic planned grazing creates soil conditions that result in higher carbon sequestration in soils which counter the higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the cattle in a grass-based system.
Researchers performed a comparative Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) of two different beef finishing systems in the Upper Midwest to compare AMP grazing and Feedlot Finishing (FL). They collected on-farm data from the Michigan State University Lake City AgBioResearch Center for the AMP grazing. They looked at emissions such as enteric methane, feed production and mineral supplement manufacture, manure, and on-farm energy use and transportation, as well as the potential carbon sink that would occur from increased soil carbon (SOC) sequestration. They used a 4-year carbon sequestration rate of 3.59 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in AMP grazed pastures.
After including SOC in the GHG footprint estimates, researchers determined that finishing emissions from the AMP system was −6.65 kg CO2-equivalent kg carcass weight. On the other hand, the feedlot emissions were 6.12 kg CO2-e kg carcass weight when considering the soil erosion that occurs in that production model.
Researchers noted that AMP grazing does take twice the amount of land for finishing animals in a feedlot (looking at the land needed to grow the feed for the feedlot). Given the 840 million acres of grazing land in the US alone and the potential for improved production through holistic planned grazing, this research suggests the ability for grazing lands to be managed in such a way as to reduce GHG, produce healthy food, improve water quality, and support soil regeneration through holistic planned grazing.