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Resource utilization and how beef cattle production benefits the environment

The discussion about food and the environment impact of animal agriculture has generated debate for many years.  A disturbing trend is how the ultimate goal of eliminating animal agriculture is hidden in the recommendations of some organizations which attempt to tell the consumer what is best for them and the world in general.  Some groups make claims that are not science-based or make assumptions with a very narrow prospective of the topic.  One such example is comparing vegetables to beef on water usage and carbon dioxide production per calorie generated.  This comparison is biased by the fact it is comparing a carbohydrate source to a protein source.  Simple chemistry – carbohydrates have more calories than meat.  This argument also ignores the benefit of protein, energy, mineral and vitamin content of meat.

One tactic that is becoming common is the recommendation for additional taxes on food products to change consumer consumption.  The “sugar tax” on soft drinks is a recent example and a “meat tax” has been recommended by several anti-animal agriculture groups.  The proven benefits of beef production to the environment and the health benefit of meat consumption is the story we must tell.  Below are some topics of how the beef industry is a benefit to world.

Improved resource utilization – Grass to Cow making Meat and Milk for Humans

The primary role of the beef cow is to digest low quality fiber in the rumen and generate meat and milk.  The largest component of a beef cow’s diet is forage.  A resource that cannot be well utilized by humans due to the high fiber content.  A person cannot consume enough grass to provide the energy, fat and protein needed to survive.  Today, one cow will produce one calf per year that yields over 1300 lbs. of meat, a hide that is used for clothing and sporting goods and many other byproducts.


Beef Cattle By Products

Beef Cattle By Products


Fiber as an energy source – works for the cow, not so well for the Earth

Cows prosper on good grass which demonstrates the efficiency of the rumen.  If we consider the goal of the USA becoming more energy independent, cellulitic ethanol has not been viable both economically or environmentally.  It takes more energy and resources to handle all that forage fiber then the energy in the ethanol produced.    We cannot build an industry to utilize fiber that is as efficient as the cow.   The collective efficiency is staggering.  The 30+ million head of beef in the US harvest and process the forage, produce a product and safely distribute the waste products (cow pies) with very little fossil fuel.  The anti-animal crowd forgets to recognize this when blaming cows for 50% of Agricultures greenhouse gas emissions.  What is a better alternative?

Improving rumen fermentation and resource utilization

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements provide a source of carbohydrates and protein sources to improve rumen efficiency thus improving forage digestion.  The wide variety of products reflect the wide variety of grazing conditions that exist across the country and throughout the production cycle.  CRYSTALYX® self-fed supplements also save time, labor and required less fossil fuel for delivery than other feeding systems.

You will see more research and articles on how nutrition of the cow will impact rumen function in relation to methane and greenhouse gas production.  Some of the research will document what we in animal agriculture have taken for granted as common knowledge and some research will document new and improved technologies that improve rumen function and cattle production.  The discussion of global impact of meat production will continue and the anti-animal agriculture groups will require we discuss it in their terminology.  The terminology has changed, but the facts are still the same.  The beef cow’s efficiency is impressive already and we can continue to improve in with feeding technologies like CRYSTALYX®.

These “new” additives are only part of the story in improving digestion efficiency.  How do we get it to the animal?  The TMR wagon and tractor are not the most efficient delivery system for pasture systems. Cows on pasture account for most of the green house gases attributed to beef production.  Getting the nutrition and additives delivered in a cost effective manner to the cow every day in a predicable manner is critical in making these new technologies practical.    Predictable and consistent nutrient delivery has always been one of the primary benefits of CRYSTALYX® brand supplements and will take on added value in the future. We will continue to promote beef production and tell our story of  improving efficiency and profitability but with these new talking points to fit the current global discussion.