Posts Tagged ‘Grassfed beef’

Meat production and greenhouse gases

December 7, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a tax on cattle and hogs that officials say contribute to carbon emissions. Annual fees could range as high as $87.50 per head for beef cattle.

Ranchers say it could put them out of business. Supporters say it would force ranchers to switch to “healthier crops.”bull

This argument is the same gross overgeneralization often put forth by the vegetarian crowd — that all meat production contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and that people are healthier eating a grain-based diet.

While the greenhouse gas assertion may be true for animals fed grain in feedlots and factory farms, the opposite is actually true for animals raised on pasture. In fact, animals raised on pasture rather than on grain actually can help reduce carbon buildup. Management intensive grazing or holistic pasture management actually promotes the growth of oxygen-producing plants — grasses and other forage — while reducing the amount of gases produced by the animals themselves. Grasslands also may be more effective than trees at removing carbon emissions from the air.

In addition, pasture-based agriculture eliminates the fossil-fuel intensive production of cereal grains, which must be planted, fertilized, cultivated, treated with pesticides, harvested and transported. Grain farming is a leading cause of death of songbirds, and the overconsumption of cereal grains by humans is a major contributor to many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Scientific research has shown the health risks associated with vegetarianism. Meat from grassfed animals is a much healthier choice, with a fat profile closer to that of wild game animals that humans have eaten throughout evolution.

It would make more sense for the EPA to tax cattle producers that use the grain-fed feedlot approach while giving a tax break to ranchers who are raising animals on pasture and using holistic grazing practices. While we’re at it, why not cut out subsidies for and heavily tax the big producers of corn and other grains that are at the root of so many environmental and health problems.

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Bumper sticker of the month: Religion is for people who are scared of going to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

A push comes to a shove

September 10, 2008

We keep a small herd of Angus-composite beef cattle on a 640-acre

We keep a small herd of Angus-composite beef cattle on a 640-acre “school section” lease here in the Wet Mountains. These cattle are raised to very high standards using no antibiotics or growth hormones. They live on high-altitude grass and forage, mountain spring water, natural sea salt and minerals and nothing else. They are not fed grain and not kept in close confinement. This year we are in the position to offer some of these cattle for sale. We have animals available for pasture-harvesting by the local meat shop, as well as certified calves and cows and heifers bred to our certified Angus bull. Contact me through the comments on this blog for more information.

In recent years I’ve been playing with using my large-breed “saddle” donkeys to help me with the cattle, convinced they can do some types of work just as well as a horse. For the most part we’ve done pretty well.

Recently two of our heifers got through the fence onto Bear Basin Ranch so today I saddled Laredo and went over there to move these two strays back where they belong. I opened the gate on the upper end of our pasture, then rode around until I located the heifers, one solid red and the other solid black. They were downhill from the gate and against the fenceline. I figured between Laredo and my dog Sam it would be a cinch to keep them pinned against the fence and drive them uphill to the gate. The only problem was, these heifers wouldn’t budge.

Laredo actually bumped both of them and they would hardly move. Finally I drove Laredo harder toward the black heifer. We were both surprised when she turned, lowered her head and drove it into Laredo’s shoulder. There was a feeling of being off-balance, then he spun out of it and bolted downhill. I managed to get him under control in short order and avoided getting tossed.

We did eventually get the heifers moved back through the gate, but I have to admit the unexpected shove did get my attention. As I rode away the heifers were headed back toward the main herd.

The increasing cost of eating well

July 22, 2008
This red sauce is made with organic ground pork, onion, vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, zucchini, chard and seasonings including oregano, basil, sea salt and pepper. I serve it over roasted spaghetti squash.

This red sauce is made with organic ground pork, onion, vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, zucchini, chard and seasonings including oregano, basil, sea salt and pepper. I serve it over roasted spaghetti squash.

For an upcoming package of articles in The Pueblo Chieftain, I was asked to write about what increasing food prices have meant to someone who follows a semi-organic, low-glycemic style of eating.

While 46 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll said food prices are causing them hardship, our citizens still spend the lowest percentage of their income on food of any country in the world — under 10 percent. Americans also spend the most on health care and are among the most unhealthy in the world. Hmmm. Wonder if there is a connection?

Anyway, it was an interesting process, looking through a couple of weeks’ worth of receipts and seeing where the money was going. When I microanalyzed it, what amazed me is how inexpensive it really can be to eat healthfully — about $9 a day per person for three meals, two snacks and one dessert. But then, the big picture of how much we spend on food was also astounding— probably more than $800 a month, rivaling the mortgage payment.

One meal I used as an example in the article is a roasted spaghetti squash served with a red meat sauce. I like this dish because it is fairly quick and easy to make, and because it’s something my son Harrison likes. I make the sauce with natural grassfed beef or pasture-raised pork. Other ingredients include one spaghetti squash, a can of organic crushed tomatoes, an organic onion, and organic vegetable broth. For variation I sometimes add a small zucchini and some chopped Swiss Chard. The recipe usually makes enough to feed three people for two nights at just over $2 per serving.

I also estimated the cost of some other meals I routinely make, ranging from tacos to chili to a beef roast with vegetables. All of them came in between $2 and $3 per serving.

Look for the story sometime the first week of August. It should be available online at http://www.chieftain.com.

Grassfed beef saves gas

July 2, 2008

Few people have failed to notice recent record prices at the fuel pump. But did you know that pump is still running at the meat counter when you buy meat from animals raised in feedlots?

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.