3 myths on Sustainability & Beef Production

DSC_0347I really love to eat beef, and it is important to me that I feel good about my food choices.  Because I care about the environment and the sustainability of our earth, I strive to raise beef responsibly.  At the end of the day, I want to feel good about both how I spent my day raising cattle and also about the beef that I place on the dinner table for my family to eat.

There are many myths regarding the topic of sustainability and beef production.  I asked Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson to address a few of these in the hopes that it will enable us all to have a clearer picture of the “sustainability of our beef”.

Anne: What are the top 3 myths that you hear about related to sustainability and the beef production chain?

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson:

1) Grass fed or organic is more sustainable than conventionally-raised beef. This is simply not true. When it comes to measuring sustainability, more efficient utilization of resources like land and water is the most important thing. I am not advocating that consumers should not eat grass fed or organic beef or that they should choose conventional beef. The great thing about food is that in America, we have a choice – but if you are choosing one production method because you believe one production practice is more sustainable than another, you are misinformed.

2) Eating less beef improves your individual sustainability. Beef producers have reduced their environmental burden by 9 percent in five years. Cattlemen and cattlewomen are already working toward a more sustainable future and beef is necessary to provide protein to a growing global population. In fact, every agriculture product will be necessary as we work to provide food for more than 9 billion people with a balanced diet without depleting our natural resources. Furthermore, many cattle ranchers are located on land that cannot be utilized for crop production and cattle do a great job converting forage that is otherwise unusable by humans to a nutrient dense protein.

3) All of the environmental impact of food occurs on the farm – Actually, in many of the sustainability impact categories we measured, such as energy use, the consumer and retailer use more energy than the farmers. This illustrates why it is so important to evaluate sustainability across the entire supply chain – so that improvements can be made where they actually make a difference.

–Re-blogged from Feed Yard Foodie.

Anne Burkeholder is a native of urban Palm Beach County, Florida; I was an Ivy League educated athlete fueled by beef for many years before I understood “where my beef came from.” Now, I am a mother of three and live with my husband in Nebraska where we run a cattle feedyard and farming operation. Feed Yard Foodie is a site where people can come to read about the real story of beef, written by someone who actually gets their hands dirty.

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