Organic farming and organic livestock production cannot truly be categorized as sustainable farming, because in spite of some misconceptions surrounding the issue, eco-friendly practices and organic practices are not one and the same.
That said, some organic policies, such as the access to pasture rule, do help increase environmental benefits naturally.
In general, the access to pasture rule says that ruminant livestock must be allowed to actively graze on a daily basis during the grazing season. The access to pasture rule isn't perfect and could use some work, but it does mean livestock spend more time grazing, and grass-fed production offers many eco-benefits over high grain diets. Pasture-based livestock allows for a more sustainable environment due to the following practices:
- Reduced use of inputs, such as diesel, fertilizer and purchased feed.
- Toxic substances often used on land, such as herbicides and chemical fertilizers, are often minimized or entirely eliminated when grass-feeding is initiated.
- Grass-fed livestock is often marketed locally, and in turn, local food saves on transport emissions and helps halt global warming.
- Reduced tillage helps to naturally conserve soil health and quality.
- Water conservation often results due to better irrigation monitoring.
- Proper, area specific habitats are maintained. For example, local pasture grass and livestock that require less maintenance benefit both the farmer (time-wise) and the land.
- Biodiversity is better maintained with planned grazing systems.
- ATTRA notes that grass-fed livestock results in a healthier management philosophy, one that, "Values the health of people, animals, plants and soil."