According to Jo Robinson, author of the new book, “Pasture Perfect,” it takes a half gallon of gasoline or equivalent petroleum fuel to produce each pound of beef from a feedlot animal. Using Robinson’s conservative estimates, this means about 250 gallons of fuel are required to raise a feedlot steer.
How could this be? Well, consider that cattle raised in this manner have to be shipped to feedlots. Meanwhile farms raise corn to be fed to these cattle. Farmland must be cultivated and planted, and the plants must be treated with petroleum-based fertilizers and treated with pesticides using cropduster planes.
Once it’s grown, corn must be harvested, then shipped to a depot station, then to a grain mill where is often steam-treated and rolled or ground. From there the grain is transported to a silo and stored before it is shipped to the feedlot. At the feedlot, grain is usually fed with the use of machines.
“From the viewpoint someone who is not an animal scientists and not a rancher everything about this (feedlot) system is broken down and is causing problems,” says Robinson.
Contrast this feedlot model with pasture-based agriculture where animals are raised on pastures that literally are powered by the sun and which fertilize themselves. This grass is harvested by the animal’s own power, and the only fuel involved is shipping the cattle to the processor.
What’s more, the beef from pasture-raised animals has better fatty-acid profiles and higher levels of important micronutrients.