May is National Beef Month; and, in my opinion, beef is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Just take a well-cut and trimmed steak, cook to perfection, and you will see what I mean. Now my vegan friends, well actually I don’t have any vegan friends, but if I did, they would say I am not eating sustainably and am negatively impacting the world’s environment. Those in the anti-animal agriculture crowd have lots of statistics they trot out to show how environmentally bad livestock agriculture is. They paint an idyllic picture of how our world and diets would be better off without meat.
Thank goodness for a new research report that that shows this is simply not the case and proves that eating meat is environmentally responsible and sustainable. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Virginia Tech just published a study in the Proceedings of National Academies of Sciences confirming that a food production system of both meat and plants is a healthy and sustainable food system. Vegans and vegetarians like to make a lot of noise about how much greenhouse gas animals produce. The new study does confirm that, if we were to do away with livestock, we’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2.6 percent, and 0.36 percent globally. But the study points out that such a move would have some very undesirable consequences, stating, “We’d also upset our balanced food ecosystem and lack essential dietary nutrients to feed all Americans.”
One fact often overlooked by non-meat eaters is that animals play an important role in taking inedible food and, ultimately, making it nutritious. Specifically, cattle act as upcyclers — meaning they eat grasses and plant matter and upgrade them into nutritional, high-quality protein. In fact, they produce 19 percent more edible protein than they consume.
Land use is another argument often used by the green leafy crowd, yet the study points out livestock production makes productive use of land that would not otherwise be useful. It states, “More than 85 percent of the land where we graze cattle is not suitable for growing crops because it is too rocky, steep and/or arid to support cultivated agriculture.”
Another unintended consequence of eliminating animal agriculture is that organic food production would decline. This is because the major fertilizer source for organic producers is livestock manure. Thus, a system of plant and animal food production is codependent and sustainable.
Dr. Sara Place, senior director, sustainable beef production research at NCBA, advocates that a balanced and varied food production system is desirable and sustainable, “Rather than continuing to debate what needs to come off our dinner plate all together, let’s start focusing our attention on making the whole plate better. The social battle underway about what type of agriculture is best (local vs. non-local, vegan vs. omnivore, organic vs. conventional, grass-fed vs. grain-fed) is getting us nowhere. We need it all for a resilient food system that provides choice and affordable, nutritional options.”
So, during National Beef Month, enjoy the well-marbled product of this sustainable and eco-friendly system. Remember, God loves you and wants you to be happy, that is why He created steak and fire to cook it.
By Gary Truitt