My love for cattle and agriculture was a common topic with my University of Alberta residence floor friends this year on 5 Henday. Everyone knew I loved cows. And that I flew and drove all over to go do cow-related things. But I'm not entirely sure they understood why.
" It occurs to me that I've never heard you out when it comes to cows. I assume they're bad for the environment from all the hipster/soy/lefty stuff I read but maybe I'm wrong? I'd enjoy hearing you out over some free range organic chicken in the future."First, I laughed at this post. Clearly, Rob's a funny guy. But he also raises an important issue. The "hipster/soy/lefty stuff" he refers to are sources that show beef and agriculture in a negative light due to their environmental impact.
Often, they are largely opinion based. They also make sense to consumer. Cows make methane, methane is bad for Earth, therefore cows are bad and we should stop eating them. Logical sequence, right? Not quite.
Myth #1: Cows are destroying the ozone layer.
Fact: The contribution by cattle to global warming that may occur in the next 50-100 years is a little less than 2% (PubMed). Methane is a byproduct of ruminant digestion, which cattle, bison, sheep, and goats carry out. Ruminant digestion makes it possible for cattle to convert food not fit for human consumption, like grasses and rejected malting barley. Cattle are responsible for about 14% of global methane emissions (EPA), but that number is declining. The more efficient cattle can be raised, the less methane they produce.
|Steers chowing down at XTC Herefords.|
Myth #3: Grass fed cattle emit far less methane.
"Grain-fed cattle produce 38% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than grass-fed cattle." -John Robbins
Myth #4: Cattle don't do anything good for the environment.
Grazing cattle on non-arable land (land that cannot produce crops or be developed), like coulees and rolling hills, is a practise that ensures the land used to raise cattle is not taking land away from other purposes. If we did not have cattle on this land eating the grass and walking on it, we would have large erosion and plant decay problems. Plants need to have constant regrowth in order to stay rooted in the soil and keep the soil from blowing away.
So, what's your point?
The environmental impact of cattle does exist, but farmers and ranchers are working hard to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly each day. It is in the best interest of livestock producers to get cattle to market in a short time using the least input, which in turn produces less gas, uses less fuel, water and other natural resources.
I believe that when taken together, the facts prove that not raising cattle would cause greater environmental harm than raising them for meat.
What do you think?