Sustainability is defined as “living on Earth in a way that allows humans to use its resources without depriving future generations of those resources” (Courard-Hauri). So the question is, what makes grass fed beef more sustainable than feedlot beef? Interestingly, the energy subsidy, or “calories of energy input per calorie of food produced” for feedlot beef is ALMOST THREE TIMES higher than grass fed beef (Courard-Hauri). Therefore, this statistic speaks to the fact that grass fed beef agricultural practices are more viable options for sustaining the future of cattle farming.
In researching about this topic, and thinking about what really makes something viable for future generations, I’ve discovered that the most sustainable agricultural practices are complex in Nature, yet easy to explain and justify. Conversely, the most unsustainable agricultural practices that are human engineered are less complex, yet harder to explain and justify. It’s a paradox…
The main reason why grass fed beef is sustainable is because it is a small-scale agricultural practice. In the food industry, once things are consolidated and in the hands of large manufacturing companies, they tend to emphasis efficiency more than sustainability. The first thing that grass fed beef cattle farming has going for it is that it does not depend upon or overindulge in nonrenewable fossil fuels. Rather, as discussed in the second post of this series, grass fed cattle are raised in local farm pastures, and oil, etc. is not needed to manufacture, package, ship, and transport the beef thousands of miles away. Secondly, grass fed beef cattle farming takes advantage of the symbiotic relationship that cattle have with grass, thereby using plants, a renewable resource, as the primary form of energy for the cattle. Thirdly, feedlots have a tendency to homogenize the species of cattle that they raise, and generally fill their land plots with tens of thousands of the exact same species of cattle. Ultimately, this results in a lack of genetic diversity of feedlot cattle, which reduces their chances of surviving or combatting habitat destruction, adverse weather conditions, and other environmental crises. Nevertheless, grass fed beef cattle farmers are more likely to invest in multiple species of cattle, thereby adding diversity to the genetic pool of their farms and pastures (Bond).
The above are just a few reasons why grass fed beef is more sustainable than feedlot beef. In previous posts, we’ve also discussed more nutritional and environmental reasons why the previous statement is true. What do you think the most compelling reason is for why grass fed beef is sustainable? Why? Let me know!
Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Bond, Annie. “Top 10 Eco-Friendly Reasons to Buy Organic Meat and Dairy.” Care 2. Care2.com, Incorporated. 2014. Web. 12 June 2014. <http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-buy-organic-dairy-meat.html>
Courard-Haurari, Friedland Andrew, Relyea, Rick. Environmental Science for AP. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. 2012. Print.