Grasslands are an essential part of Europe’s landscape and heritage. They provide important habitat for biodiversity and ecosystem services that enhance the environment and human well-being. However, changes in land management practices and demographics has led to decline of grasslands. A new Report by the Latvian Fund for Nature examines how the management of grasslands in Northern Europe’s Boreal biogeographical region can be made more sustainable, highlighting the additionality of grassland products.

The role of Europe’s semi-natural grasslands is significant: they host the majority of EU farmland carbon, provide water catchment services on farmland, serve as habitat for crop pollinators, regulate nutrients and reduce soil erosion. These grasslands are a source of agricultural goods and contribute to culture, social identity, tourism and more. However, inappropriate management, insufficient distribution of financial resources and lack of differentiation in the market make Europe’s semi-natural grasslands declined.

This study consists of literature review, case studies, methodology and set of tests. It identifies ways to assess the added value of grassland products and promotes them. It is shown that there is an opportunity to develop production, entrepreneurship and marketing measures with emphasis on the values inherent to semi-natural grassland products in all five categories – meat, dairy, honey and grass as well as wild medical plants.

One of the products highlighted by the report is meat – the higher nutritional profile of beef derived from grass-fed cattle is well-known, especially in regard to the type and percentages of fatty acids. This foundation should be used for promoting such meat in the market and to fine-tune labelling or other tools to differentiate meat, based on the percentage of semi-natural grass in the diet: ‘less but better’.

“The report is targeted at owners of semi-natural grasslands, producers, also food sector – chefs and restaurators, and we hope it will become a beginning and sound foundation of grassland products in Latvia, and will serve as a basis for development of this concept in Latvia,” said Inga Račinska, GrassLIFE project leader.

Author of the report: Traci Birge, DSc. Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Agricultural Sciences and HELSUS Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Read the full report in English: Grasslands-Biodiversity-and-Business_GrassLIFE report