As you celebrate Earth Day today, you may be wondering how you can live as sustainably as possible AND feed your family the highest quality protein. The truth is you are. I know cattle have had a bit of a PR crisis with the, now debunked, claim that they contribute more the greenhouse gases than, say, the transportation sector. If that seemed a little hard to believe, well, it’s because it was false. Sigh.
Unfortunately, the damage is done and cattle raisers are left to clean up the mess caused by shoddy research.
I’d like you, our customers, to understand what we do here on the farm to conserve and manage our land in a way that benefits our community and the environment. We want you to feel confident in your choice to support our family farm AND to continue eating beef!
Cattle are the ultimate upcyclers
Much of the land grazed by cattle is unsuitable for other uses, like farming, or lacks water resources for other types of development. Cattle are able to take forage and convert it into high quality, nourishing protein for human consumption. They feed the population while using land that is not otherwise useable by humans. They are able to upcycle plants that we would never eat into protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that have great benefit to us.
There is very little waste in cattle harvest. One of the things we love to talk about, especially with he school aged kid that visit the farm, is how many products cattle byproducts go in. If you wear leather shoes, throw and leather football, eat candy, shampoo your hair, or glue things together- you are dependent on cattle. It’s truly fascinating how little of each cow is wasted. I can’t say the same for the retired wind turbines piling up in landfills.
In addition to being critical to so many products human use, cattle support the ecosystem and habitats of many other animals. Without cattle, the land they are grazing would likely be developed and the habitats for those animals would be destroyed. Cattle improve life for humans, globally, but also for many other species.
Land Stewardship is our Livelihood.
Cattle raisers are stewards of the land and take the long approach to sustainability and land improvement.
Land is our legacy.
A 2021 study* found that 90% of cattle producers use at least one method of land conservation including, rotational grazing, water resource management, and adjusting stock numbers best manage land resources. Of course the farmer or rancher has a vested interest in caring for the land and livestock on it. For most, land is their largest asset and what they hope to pass down to future generations.
This is something we do well here on the farm. It takes years and years to restore pastures and lots of effort to maintain them but we have consistently made those investments. We graze rotationally so that there can always be a healthy root in the ground. On the crop side, we use subsurface irrigation on much of the farm- which allows us to target the crop with much less waste and were some of the first in our area to minimize tilling.
Grazing animals, like cattle and other ruminants, are also invaluable for brush control and wildfire management because they keep the excessive fuel for a wildfire grazed down. Cattle actually HELP to remove carbon from the atmosphere and as much as 30% of the world’s stored carbon is in held in land grazed by cattle in the US- equivalent to taking 6 billion cars off the road every year. That’s not something the “cow burp” folks remember to mention.
Animal agriculture is now found to account for under 4% of emissions globally and with the nutritional and environment contributions beef makes to our world, beef is well worth the cost.
Local Food Systems are best for everyone.
Our cattle are birth to harvest within about a 15 mile radius. We don’t transport them to the panhandle to be finished, then elsewhere to butcher and back here. This helps us run efficiently but also to hire local families rather than outsource our feeding and butchering. Old Barn Butcher Co., is just a few miles away and our cattle stay on the farm their whole lives.
Local food systems support farmers, ranchers, families and the local economy. This way of feeding our community is much more stable and economical than relying on concentrated feed and packing operations located elsewhere. COVID taught us that we need to step back from reliance on consolidating our food systems in the name of efficiency. Eating as locally as possible is best for everyone!
*study conducted by Elanco Animal Health