“Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” (unless you read the 2015 dietary guidelines)
As you’ve probably heard, The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded on Feb. 19 that a plant-focused diet that’s lower in red meat not only promotes good health, but it is also more environmentally sustainable.
Ok, maybe you haven’t heard that because you aren’t a dietetic major… :/
Regardless, if you haven’t heard about it you probably will hear some sort of rendition of it in the near future… i.e. billboards, commercials, magazine ads, or some sort of “in your face read me NOW marketing” and it will probably go a little something like this…
Now I’m all about taking care of this world God created, don’t get me wrong. And I also respect the Dietary Guidelines and their advisory committee. But (there’s also gotta be a but…) I’m not okay with sitting here and allowing strewed information to make it to helpless consumers!
Yes, meat production does have an impact on the world, yes many Americans eat it in excess and therefore can see negative consequences, yes other lean meats, seafood and vegetable sources of protein are great.
But statements and marketing ploys that single out one industry as the main source of environmental problems and encouraging every individual to scale back on their consumption is not something I can agree with.
And this is not just some midwest girl pouting about attacks made on her family’s main source of income… “according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, calorie for calorie, fruits and vegetables can be just as polluting as other sectors of the agriculture industry.”
(this is a picture taken on my farm – we are “doing chores” i.e. feeding cattle)
According to peta.org (Newkirk, 2011), the most important step to saving the environment is to become vegan.
Cattle grazing has a negative effect on the environment… it is a poor use of land and pushes out wildlife… wrong, wrong, wrong!
Each of these statements is a misconception that many Americans have come to believe. Let’s take a closer look at these statements and why they are untrue.
Lie number one: “cattle grazing is a waste of land.” Many people believe that grazing cattle take up too much land that could be used for growing more ‘sustainable’ crops that could feed the hungry (which we’ve already touched on above). According to cattlepages.com (Cattlepages Team, 2011), 92% of land in the United States has been classified as not suitable for growing crops. Therefore, if cattle were not grazing these areas, they would have no food value whatsoever! Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food. Cattle are vital to our ecosystem in that they convert forages humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food… not to mention the fact that beef (and other animal sources of protein) provide vital nutrients to the human diet that fruits and vegetables simple cannot.
Also, grazing cattle can minimize the invasion of non-native plant species and minimize the risk of wildfires by decreasing the amount of flammable material on the land.
Myth number two: “cattle grazing pushes out wildlife.” Wrong again! According to cattlepages.com, 87% of cattlemen and women have areas that support wildlife population. In addition, 61% of cattle producers provide feed for wildlife during the winter.
If everyone was to take PETA’s advice and become a vegetarian to ‘improve the environment’ we would see a decrease in wildlife, increase of invasive plants, rise in wildfires… not exactly the definition of ‘improvement’.
But what about beef’s negative impact on your health? …we’ll save that for another day 🙂