Kyle Hornor: Not all beef is equal
January 8, 2012
While I am a supporter of the Community Agriculture Alliance and I generally enjoy their articles, I found their most recent article concerning the beef industry to be misleading.
The article brings up the growing movement of concern for sustainability, environment and healthy food and then goes on to claim that these concerns have "resulted in great new technology that allows cattle operators to produce more beef on less land with less impact." I would have liked to know what these new technologies are and how they are specifically achieving these claims. I would have liked to know what kind of cattle operation is achieving these claims. Is it the local grass-fed operations, which have grown in popularity because of increasing emphasis on sustainability, environment and healthy food, or is it the confined animal feeding operations, which dominate current beef production, that are making these gains?
As most people know, not all beef production is equal. Confined animal feeding operations are an environmental nightmare with issues ranging from the soil degradation, caused by monoculture type growing of corn for feed, to water and air pollution issues, caused by the concentration of the cattle at the feedlot.
Local grass-fed operations, on the other hand, mimic the ancient relationship between grasslands and large grazing animals and can improve the health of the ecosystem while also turning what humans can't eat — grass — into something we can — beef.
I think that is misleading to tell people that they can feel good about supporting an industry "committed to responsible, safe and sustainable food production," without distinguishing between these two very different types of beef production. I don't think that I'm alone when I say that I don't think that using vast amounts of fossil fuels to grow corn, transport said corn to feed lots and transport cattle to and from feedlots is responsible. I don't think I'm alone when I say that I don't think concentrating so many cows in such a confined and unsanitary space is safe. And I don't think I'm alone when I say that I think industrial beef production is anything but sustainable. Not only is local grass-fed beef richer in vitamins and nutrients than its industrial counter parts, it supports local families and healthy ecosystems, and that is something to feel good about.
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Student of sustainability studies, Steamboat Springs