Guest opinion: In defense of beef and the environment
As someone who prefers to make decisions based on facts from credible scientific research and not reliable sources like “the Internet” and Netflix, I can’t not respond to the “Doctor’s Tip” column by Dr. Greg Feinsinger published Oct. 27.
While I do not have a problem with individuals making diet choices to suit their beliefs and personal preferences, I do have a problem with misinformation being intentionally spread by those with obvious bias and agendas. After all, freedom to choose is part of what makes our country so great.
Feedlots with 1,000 or more head of cattle are subject to the federal Clean Water Act, meaning they must submit an annual report, develop and follow a plan for handling manure and wastewater and must not discharge any pollutants into the waters of the United States. Violators are subject to steep fines.
Additionally, animal waste is recycled and used as fertilizer, dramatically decreasing the use of synthetic fertilizers. The Environmental Protection Agency has even stated that proper use of animal waste as fertilizer increases soil health. If you’ve ever purchased potting soil, potted plants or mulch at garden centers, you’ve most likely purchased recycled animal waste. In many places, animal waste is used as a source of energy generation, dramatically decreasing the carbon footprint as compared with the use of fossil fuels for energy generation.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency and research conducted and published by UC Davis, livestock production accounts for 3.4 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture as a whole accounts for 6.5 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions. That same research shows that livestock production has made great strides in the past 30 years, reducing their carbon footprint by 16 percent.
Published research would also dispute Dr. Feinsinger’s claim of the amount of water used to produce a pound of beef. The actual number is 441 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of boneless beef. In comparison, the cotton T-shirt you are wearing used approximately 713 gallons of water, and nearly 40,000 gallons were used to produce the car you are driving. Again, published research shows that agricultural producers have made great strides in the past 30 years, reducing the amount of water used to produce beef by 12 percent.
Beef is also a healthy diet choice. Research shows that beef offers several health benefits, including heart health, muscle development and weight management. At just 154 calories, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef supplies over 10 percent of the daily value of nine essential nutrients, including zinc, iron and protein.
Land used to produce beef is often land that is not suitable for vegetable and crop production. The sagebrush and oak brush side hills of the Roaring Fork Valley are a prime example of that. Cattle grazing is used to reduce wildfire risk and properly manage rangelands. Additionally, ranchland, including thousands of privately owned acres, provides wildlife habitat and buffer zones from our urban areas. Ranchers provide critical habitat for many threatened and endangered species.
The most powerful action one can take if they are concerned about our environment and natural resources is to stop driving their vehicles and tear out their lawns. Turfgrass is now the largest irrigated crop in America, using nearly twice the amount of water as the next four largest crops combined. Additionally, the fertilizer used on this “crop” is often improperly applied and contributes to many water quality issues.
The United Nations projects in the next 50 years, the world population will need 70 percent more food. U.S. cattlemen are proud to raise 20 percent of the world’s beef supply with only 7 percent of the world’s cattle population, making the United States the leader in raising efficient and sustainable beef. We will work to gain new efficiencies and continue to make progress on important issues like water usage and reducing our carbon footprint as we face the challenge of providing a nutrient rich protein to a growing world population.
Dan McCarty ranches in the Silt area.
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