A large proportion of grass is made up of fibres called cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin which people are only able to digest to varying degrees. These fibres result in grass having no great nutritional value to people as a direct food source. Ruminants, such as cattle, are able to digest these fibres. This is due to anaerobic bacteria which exist in their rumen. These bacteria break down the fibres into forms of nutrients that are able to be digested and absorbed by the cow. This fact makes cows very special in their ability to take a large amount of biomass which has little other nutritional value to people, and convert it into products which have great nutritional value, meat and milk.
Grass is abundant in the world, and is able to be grown sustainably for milk production. Pasture-fed cows are very efficiently converting a potentially useless form of nutrients into valuable food for people.
There are many negative environmental effects that are associated with agriculture, but supplying and distributing sufficient nutritious food is a major concern in the world, especially in developing countries. This is where sustainability plays a role in ensuring that production is still able to supply enough healthy food while being done in a manner that takes into account environmental protection. Pasture based dairy farming systems are an example of how land can be used responsibly to produce food for society.
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