Popular Posts

Grass Fed Cattle and the Future of Farming

Raising cattle on natural pasture is not a new way of ranching. Its the oldest form and the truest form. And lucky for us, its making a resurgence. More than a decade ago, there were less than 50 pasture ranches in the U.S. and today, there are thousands. There are many reasons for the shift in getting back to basics, I like to think its mainly because we, as consumers, have learned that we truly are what we eat and therefore we are eating a more pure, tasty and nutritious form of meat. Grass Fed Beef consumption is on the rise, which is great news for Farmers like myself, as well as a consumer like you and the biggest winner of all is Mother Nature.

I could go on for days about the nutritional benefits of eating grass fed beef, and specifically Pasture Raised Grass Fed Beef, but today I want to scratch the surface of a larger discussion: the Future of Farming and Three Reasons we need to get back to Farming basics.

The Industrial Revolution in Farming isn’t Worth It

Industrial Farms and Confined Animal Feeding Operations are well oiled, animal producing machines. They are efficient at creating ready to eat animals in the lowest amount of time for the lowest cost. It is a machine. It requires machinery and equipment and like any other machine, it needs a power source and creates a tremendous amount of waste.

A recent article from foodrevolution.org reported that according to David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, the corn we feed our feedlot cattle accounts for a staggering amount of fossil fuel energy. Growing the corn used to feed livestock takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil. Because of this dependence on petroleum, Pimentel says, a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime. 

“We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine.”

Corn Subsidy Reality Check
How did our system become so mechanized and wasteful? Well, the answer is subsidy. What was intended to protect Farmers from bad weather and market swings has become the catalyst for producing mass quantities of grain, the use of vast amounts of oil and the use of millions of acres of farmland. Nevermind that cattle aren’t intended to eat processed grain in the first place, when this food source became readily available and cheap, it was hard to not to give into the temptation of using it. And thats what industrialized farms have done.

Economically, its also doesn’t make much sense. What was needed during the Great Depression in the Dustbowl days, isn’t being used in the same way and its costing you, the taxpayers billions. Yes billions, whether you’re consuming it or not.

According to a Bloomberg article published earlier this month. Lawmakers passed a five-year farm law in February and hailed its projected savings in subsidies of $14 billion over a decade. The forecast was based on farmers getting paid more for their crops. Instead, prices have fallen and may trigger subsidies the law aimed to reduce. And yet, U.S. farmers are growing more corn than ever. The USDA this month estimated a record yield of 174.2 bushels an acre.  Payments to growers of corn, peanuts and other crops may reach $6.5 billion for this year’s harvest, or about $4 billion more than lawmakers anticipated in the farm bill, said Vincent Smith, director of the Agricultural Marketing Policy Center at Montana State University.

If a fraction of that subsidy was used to protect pasture land for cattle to be raised on, just think of the amazing positive long term effect it would have on the environment (and taxpayer’s pockets).

Mother Nature Will Thank Us
When cattle graze the land, they eat and fertilize it naturally with their waste, as opposed to letting it pile up in large quantities in confined spaces, becoming another source of air and water pollution, requiring manure hauling regulations, policies and expenses.

When cattle graze the land, we don’t need feedlots filled with corn foodstuff, grown using thousands of acres of land, using valuable water resources and fossil fuels, harming tens of thousands of acres of soil.

When cattle graze the land, we don’t need metal pens for confinements, concrete slabs for feedbunks, settling basins or detention basins, supplies for sheds and lot covers or confinement buildings, feed tanks for storage, chemicals for pest control. We don’t need to bring in outside water supply.  We don’t need to create a false optimal environment for cattle to thrive, because if they are on the pasture, they will do so naturally.

This is a large topic to tackle and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know we can’t continue to Farm the same way we are.  We need to get back to the basic, purest form of Farming and let nature do what it knows how to do.

by: Kristi Lee Graham, founder of True Pasture Beef, a sustainable California CSA that raises home grown, free range, 100% Pasture Raised Grass Fed Beef, serving Southern California. Connect with her on Social Media: facebook.com/truepasturebeef on Instagram @truepasturebeef, via email info@truepasturebeef.com  or visit www.truepasturebeef.com to ‘meat the herd.’