Why Cows Are Sustainable After All


It seems like every week a new restaurant chain, celebrity, or company has decided to announce some big change about animal agriculture (meat, dairy, etc.).  Earlier this month, the Golden Globes decided to go meatless due to their concerns about climate change.  More recently, Starbucks announced that they want to be more environmentally sustainable and one way they plan on doing that is reducing dairy products.  I honestly think we have bigger issues when it comes to the environment.  Just stop and think about everything we consume daily and how we do it…there is no one thing that will have a big impact.

Cows and Sustainability

Cows are environmentally friendly…they can be maintained on land that is not suitable for other uses, they can eat stuff we cannot (and would be otherwise thrown away), and they keep green space open for us and wildlife to enjoy.  Not to mention they recycle nutrients in the environment!

Let’s dive a little deeper.  Cows are ruminants and have four parts to their stomach which allows them to digest material that we cannot which is super awesome.  They can eat by-products such as distiller’s grain (leftover from the distillation process), corn gluten, and cottonseed.  Cows do not consume corn 24/7 like some may think.  The majority (82%) of their diet throughout their lifecycle is forage-based like grass and hay.  Even if they are fed grain such as corn, it only accounts for 11% of their diet throughout their life.  The other 7% of their diet is by-products like I previously mentioned.


What about all the cow farts?  It is actually cow belching from the rumen which is one of the four stomach compartments.  Methane is naturally produced there by the microorganisms needed for the digestion process. Even with methane being produced, beef cattle only account for about 2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  Over the past three decades, enteric methane emissions from beef cattle have decreased by 34% in the U.S.  This is because we are now producing the same amount of beef with fewer cattle.  Talk about sustainable.

So, why is it that we hear cows are causing climate change?  Everyone wants to blame someone else and that is exactly what is happening.  Animal agriculture is an easy target for so many hot topics because there is an emotional connection there.  Activists and other groups/companies do not understand agriculture/farming and they do not refer back to science.  They use emotion to get what they want.

Consider the Source

Look at where the information is coming from.  Is it coming from a farmer or an activist?  Is it research-based or opinion-based?  Time and time again, research has shown that animal agriculture has reduced its carbon footprint and is now producing more beef, milk, etc. with less land, water, and other resources.  Agriculture wants to be better in every way and don’t let others tell you different.

Ultimately, we care about our animals, our land, and you, the consumer.

To read more on beef sustainability please visit the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. website.



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