When you think about winemaking, you might imagine sweeping vineyards tended lovingly by farmers who view themselves as shepherds of the earth. Animal agriculture, on the other hand, could conjure visions of Upton Sinclair\u2019s The Jungle, factory farms and methane pollution.\r\n\r\nThere\u2019s some truth to both visions, but neither presents the whole picture. Small-scale, biodynamic and organic wineries are often rooted in environmentally friendly practices that renew the soil. But industrial wineries also exist, and some use an array of chemicals to produce and preserve their wines.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, most animals in the U.S. food system live cramped, unhappy lives, says Leslie Cooperband, a soil scientist who left academia to start Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery with her husband in Champaign, Illinois. \u201cThat\u2019s the reality for 98% of livestock in the country.\u201d\r\n\r\nHowever, ecologically minded cheese producers can treat the land and animals more responsibly. They capture methane emissions, track and reduce their resources, and embrace regenerative agriculture, a land management technique also used by some wineries.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnimal agriculture can be a problem when it comes to climate change,\u201d says Marshall Webb, carbon drawdown coordinator at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. \u201cBut it can also be one of the big solutions when it\u2019s done well.\u201d\r\n\r\nShelburne Farms and Oregon-based Rogue Creamery have both instituted measures in hopes of becoming carbon neutral in the next five to 10 years. While carbon neutrality can be difficult for consumers to discern, ecologically minded wineries like California\u2019s Fetzer Wines have also made it a priority.\r\n\r\nAs in wine, cheesemakers have to educate themselves, their employees and the public about how they embrace sustainable farming.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnimal agriculture is being lumped into a single category: industrial,\u201d says Cooperband. \u201cWe\u2019re trying really hard to educate people about this other option, pasture-based dairying.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Importance of Grass\r\nAndy Hatch, co-owner and cheesemaker at Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin, says there are a variety of issues encapsulated in sustainable cheesemaking. Among them are soil quality, the impact of the animal on the landscape. \u201cThese concerns all look better through the concerns of grass-based animal management,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nHealthy grasslands are integral to environmentally friendly cheese.\r\n\r\nWhen cows graze, they pull the grass up by the roots and leave their manure. To keep the grass healthy and nutritious, farmers can split their pasture into sections and rotate the cows within them to allow for optimal grass regrowth.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy dad will frequently say he\u2019s not a dairy farmer, he\u2019s a grass and dirt farmer,\u201d says Jessica Little, co-owner of Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. \u201cIf you have nutritional grass, the cows take care of themselves.\u201d\r\n\r\nHumans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), whereas plants take in CO2 and release oxygen.\r\n\r\n\u201cRuminants [like cows] take carbon out of air and sequester it in the soil better than anything humans have invented,\u201d says Little. While overgrazing can strip the soil and erode the landscape, carefully managed grazing does the opposite. It creates healthy grasslands that sequester carbon.\r\n\r\nThe soil isn\u2019t the only thing that\u2019s healthier. The cows at Sweet Grass live three to five times longer than the average dairy cow, according to Little.\r\n\r\n\r\nBeyond the Pasture\r\nTo reverse climate change requires a multifaceted approach, so environmentally conscious cheesemakers adopt many tactics.\r\n\r\nSome, like Rogue Creamery and California-based Cowgirl Creamery, farm organically. \u201cIn doing so, you eliminate 750 chemicals out of that process of producing food,\u201d says David Gremmels, president of Rogue Creamery.\r\n\r\nCalifornia\u2019s Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. and Italy\u2019s Quattro Portoni purchased methane digestors, which capture gases from manure placed within the system and turns it into simple organic matter and usable biogas. Shelburne Farms enrolled in a program, the Green Dairy Cohort, through the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. It tracks expenditures of water, electricity and other resources, and then provides strategies to reduce their environmental impact.\r\n\r\nA crucial way for people to reduce their environmental footprint can be to consume fewer animal-based products. But if you want to enjoy cheese responsibly, seek out producers committed to limiting their impacts on the climate crisis.\r\nSix Eco-Friendly Cheese Producers to Try\r\nSweet Grass Dairy\r\nTry: Green Hill. Pair with sustainably-produced Gloria Ferrer NV Sonoma Brut M\u00e9thode Champenoise (Carneros).\r\nShelburne Farms\r\nTry: 1-Year Cheddar. Pair with a bold red, like the Domaine Bousquet 2019 Virgen Organic Malbec (Tupungato), which is made from organic grapes.\r\nPrairie Fruits Farm & Creamery\r\nTry: Chevre Frais. Pair with Barker\u2019s Marque 2019 Three Brooms Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough), a zesty, certified sustainable option.\r\nUplands Cheese Company\r\nTry: Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Pair with the organically growth The Eyrie Vineyards 2016 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley).\r\nRogue Creamery\r\nTry: Caveman Blue. Pair with the sustainably produced Pacific Rim 2018 Sweet Riesling (Columbia Valley).\r\nQuattro Portoni\r\nTry: Quadrello di Bufala. Pair with the Valle Reale 2018 Montepulciano d\u2019Abruzzo, a medium-bodied red from an organic estate.