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PASA Study Explores Scaling Up Pastured Meat Production

A new study from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) explores how much land and feed it takes for 10 different pastured livestock farms in Pennsylvania to produce a pound of grass-finished beef, pastured pork, or pastured chicken. The study is aimed at identifying what it would take to make pastured systems the mainstream model of animal agriculture and how that scaling up might affect land use and the environment. PASA notes that while one pastured beef cattle farm was capable of producing 71 pounds of meat per acre of pasture and hay, another farm was producing just 31 pounds of meat per acre. The most efficient of the pastured poultry farms the study examined produced 1,760 pounds of meat per ton of feed, while the least efficient produced 540 pounds of meat per ton of feed. PASA concludes that many pastured livestock farms likely have the ability to become significantly more efficient at translating feed and land into marketable meat. However, the study also notes that at these rates, providing six ounces per day of meat protein for all of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents would require all of the state’s current cropland, plus an additional 7.2 million acres of pastureland and 1.2 million acres of cropland outside the state.