Community Agriculture Alliance: Feel good and support beef industry


— I recently read a fantastically entertaining, often hilarious and totally eye-opening book about one man’s self-challenge to raise enough food to sustain him for one month. He converted his 800 square feet of backyard space into a mini-farm/ranch in Brooklyn, N.Y. He assumed the role of traditional farmer on a small scale and experienced many of the same challenges producers on all levels face. Although he was not dependent on his farm for his livelihood, he raised the question of how practical it is to be truly self-sustaining. He successfully answered the question, but you’ll have to read the book to find it out: “My Empire of Dirt” by Manny James.

This experiment is timely considering the increased emphasis society has placed on sustainability, the environment and healthy food.

The desire to know where your food comes from and the cost to the earth to produce it has resulted in great new technology that allows cattle operators to produce more beef on less land with less impact.

A study published in the December 2011 Journal of Animal Science found that raising a pound of beef in the United States today uses 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water, 19 percent less feed and 9 percent less fossil fuels than in 1977. The resulting carbon footprint also was reduced by more than 16 percent in the same time period.

As with most other competitive industries, the beef industry takes advantage of new technology to increase profits. By applying these advancements to their operations, farmers and ranchers have been able to raise more beef from fewer animals by maximizing resources while reducing the impact to the environment.

As I read the book, it became evident that despite the fact that I help feed more than just my family, I never really considered what it takes to feed Earth’s inhabitants. The world population recently reached 7 billion and is expected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2050.

As the demand for land and resources increases, the efficiency of a farm/ranch becomes increasingly critical. The beef industry is well-positioned to meet growing consumption demands. Beef is an important component of efficiently meeting nutrition needs for humans; it provides more than 10 percent of recommended value of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10 percent of daily calories. That’s a tremendous bang for the buck!

As demonstrated in the author’s experiment, raising food for human consumption is challenging regardless of whether it’s for one man, one family, a community or a planet. As the author so colorfully learned, “It’s one thing to know the farmer, it turns out — it’s another thing entirely to be the farmer.” Next time you sit down to a nice steak, you can feel good that you’re not only eating an excellent source of tasty and healthy vitamins and nutrients, but that you’re also supporting an industry committed to responsible, safe and sustainable food production.

Christy Belton is the president of Routt County CattleWomen. She helps her husband raise cattle in the Elk River Valley.


ybul 5 years, 3 months ago


I suggest you read this article on "mob stocking"

Ranchers utilizing high tech fencing and more intensive management of grasslands are yielding 6 fold what they did in haying types of operations. Beef production optimally would be carbon NEGATIVE as our grasslands store as much carbon as do our forests (just in the soil).

In addition the layering of enterprises on one another push the yields far higher than any conventional operation could hope for. Though it is very labor intensive and thus requires good people who are self starters willing to do hard work - which is hard to find in this day and age.

However, running cattle on an intensively managed basis followed by chickens who consume the bugs and short grasses has a lower cost of production and produces are far superior product nutritionally (though it has yellow fat which people do not like (initially) but orange yolks which people love).

Then if carrying it a step further you run pigs behind the chickens they will clean up the manure from the cattle. A very disgusting thought but really very healthy. Throw in Asparagus and fruit trees along ditch banks, with a rotating plot for vegetables as the system builds soil and fertility yielding much more nutrient dense foods for people to eat.

Yes trying to do everything yourself tends to be overwhelming and one needs to find a way to operate at larger scales so that one can live a life that others do in this day and age - of being able to take time off and see the world.


Colette Erickson 5 years, 3 months ago

It's all great until you get to the feedlot (for beef) part of the equation. Mega-feedlots, as we know them in the US, are horrific for the animals, the environment, and (aside from low cost beef) ultimately the consumer. They provide no benefit to anyone except the conglomerates which own them.


sedgemo 5 years, 3 months ago

3canines, agreed about feedlots! Vote with your wallet and buy beef from small operations, ie grass fed, home raised, organic etc., the more local the better usually. Homegrown beef tastes better, too. I don't buy any from the chain groceries anymore since even when I am really hungry for steak the flavorless slab disappoints, so I employ an arsenal of condiments to enjoy my meal.


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