Earlier this week, celebrity talk show host Ellen DeGeneres urged her fans to eat less meat.
In a heartfelt message, she told her social media followers, “Oh hi there. It’s Ellen DeGeneres here. I was scrolling through the Gram (Instagram), and I noticed that a lot of people are talking about eating less meat, which I think is a fantastic idea. It’s a great idea for the planet. It’s a great idea for your health. It’s a great idea for the animal’s health.
“So eat less meat, unless you’re a vegan and you don’t eat meat already, then good for you. You don’t even need to pay attention to this. But for the people who do eat meat, just try to eat less of it. Just maybe eat it, less, once a week, or none a week. If you eat it every night, don’t eat it every night. Eat it less than that. Four nights a week would be OK, but three or two nights or just one night a week would be best.
“Anyway, the point is it’s better for you and it’s better for the environment and for the animals. Eat less meat. #Eatlessmeat. Hey, be neat. No meat. Be neat. Eat less meat. #BeNeatEatLessMeat. #Byebye.”
Listen, I get it. Folks, whether they are celebrities or not, can use their platforms to talk about what is most important to them. I raise cattle. I eat beef. And I talk about both quite often on social media, so I’m no different than Ellen. In America, we have plenty of food choices, which is incredible! Choose the diet that's best for you, and don't feel guilty about your choice!
However, what really bothers me about celebrities urging people to go meatless is that it’s often based on propaganda and not real facts. I desperately would love to get Ellen’s attention to share with her what I know about this topic, so I’ve reached out to her on social media and have sent her this open letter. Please, help me get her attention by sharing this blog on your social media channels today!
Hello! I’m a cattle rancher, beef lover, writer, wife and mom of three, and I would love a few minutes of your time to talk about your new #BeNeatEatLessMeat message on social media. I feel like there are some misconceptions about animal agriculture that I would really like to clear up, if given the chance.
Before I tackle some of these common myths about beef production, I would just like to tell you that I love how you approach life from a place of compassion, kindness and empathy. We definitely need fewer bullies and more friendliness in this world today, and I appreciate how you encourage everyone to do good. That message means a lot, so thank you for being you!
I, too, try to approach life from the same point of view. I believe in being kind, first and foremost. My faith in God, in humanity and in what the next generation has to offer our people and the planet is great! And my conscience is clear when it comes to consuming animal products, and please, let me explain why:
First, you mention that eating less meat is better for our health. I would contend the opposite.
A single 3-oz. serving of beef (173 calories) contains 10 essential nutrients, including about half your Daily Value of protein! To get the same 25 grams of protein that you can get from one serving of beef, you would need to consume 3 cups of quinoa (666 calories), 6.5 tbsp of peanut butter (613 calories), nearly 2 cups of black beans (379 calories) or more than 1 cup of edamame (249 calories).
Without question, calorie for calorie, beef is the best bang for your nutritional buck. Plus, it contains 51% monounsaturated fats, the same heart healthy fats found in olive oil. Fat is essential for fueling our brains and our bodies, and I feel great eating beef knowing it is giving me the nutrients I need to keep up with my kids, think clearly and age well while maintaining muscle mass.
Second, you suggest that a plant-based diet is healthier for the animals.
Again, I love your compassion. I, too, love animals. Our family has the cutest black Labrador named “Quinn,” and we love and adore her!
We also have many cattle on our ranch, and that’s truly where my passion for animals stems from. At our home in South Dakota, we see new life begin in the spring with baby calves born here. We care for them, providing them shelter, water, pen space and perfectly balanced nutrition to help them grow and thrive.
And yes, at the end of the day, we are raising these cattle for beef. We understand this circle of life and respect it, knowing that the beef we raise nourishes people. Plus, we utilize beef cattle for much more than just food. Hundreds of beef by-products, including the makeup you promote in your CoverGirl ads, enrich our daily lives, and that’s true whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegan.
I understand not wanting to hurt animals by eating them; however, every diet — whether it’s plant-based or not — includes some forms of death. Let me explain. On our ranch, we maintain beautiful rolling hills of pastures for our cattle. These pastures are home to a bounty of wildlife including deer, fox, squirrels, rabbits, snapping turtles, mice, bees, earthworms, bugs, gophers, prairie dogs, fish, frogs and so much more.
Should we eliminate cattle grazing on this land, these grasslands might be converted to farmland or urban development. While both have a place in society, if everything was concrete or plowed fields, where would the wildlife go? Their homes would be gone!
Third and finally, I want to stress that we can’t eat our way out of climate change.
I promise, I care about the planet as much as you. I want a future where my children and grandchildren will have access to an abundance of natural resources, including clean air, fresh water and nutritious food. And I believe farmers and ranchers can be part of the solution to address our planet’s climate concerns.
However, if we truly want to reduce our carbon footprint, here’s why cutting meat won’t work.
A whopping 70% of our earth’s land surface is unsuitable for modernizing or crop farming, but cattle can graze some of this land and convert it into nutrient-dense beef. Without ruminant animals on this land, much of the range would become barren wastelands emitting tons of carbon instead of the lush green hills that we have now.
What’s more, cattle can upcycle plants of little to no nutritional value and convert it to high-quality protein and other by-products for people to enjoy. Today’s beef industry produces the same amount of beef with 33% fewer cattle compared to 1977, and we accomplish that with just 8% of the world’s beef cattle. Of that, I am very proud.
And, while cattle do emit methane in the form of belches, the amount they give off as they digest food is highly inflated. U.S. beef has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world, 10 to 50 times lower than some nations. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from cattle only account for 2% of U.S. GHG emissions. For comparison, landfills contribute 2.2%; 25.3% comes from transportation; 29.7% from electricity; and 40.9% from other sources.
To put this into perspective, if all livestock and poultry from the U.S. food system were removed, it would only reduce global GHG emissions by 0.36%. If every American adopted in Meatless Mondays, U.S. GHG emissions would be reduced by just 0.37%. And if every American went vegan, U.S. GHG emissions would be just 2.6% lower, but it would also result in insufficient nutrients to feed the U.S. population, an increased used of synthetic fertilizer to grow plant-based foods and increased soil erosion due to the loss of cover that grasslands give us.
Ellen, I know you want to do good in this world, and so do I! If you truly want to promote planetary health and adequate nutrition for all, please urge your fans to focus on reducing food waste!
Did you know that 40% of all the food brought home in American goes uneaten? This is enough to fill a 90,000-seat Rose Bowl stadium every single day!
On a side note, I recently watched your comedy special, “Relatable,” on Netflix, and I appreciated hearing how you started your career from the ground up and built your legacy in the face of great adversity.
As a rancher, I am doing similar things in my own career. My husband Tyler and I work hard each day despite many, many challenges — market uncertainties, trade wars, unpredictable weather, unbelievable capital risk, rising debt loads and a society who believes we aren’t doing what is right for the land, the livestock or for people. It’s disheartening, to say the least.
But, we do this, and we continue to raise cattle on the land, because it’s our passion, our legacy, and at the heart of it all, it’s a way to help mankind by providing beef and by-products for the world!
We love our quiet life in the country with the wide-open spaces; it’s a great setting for raising kind, responsible, hard-working kids. Our only wish is that others would have the chance to visit a farm or ranch and see first-hand the big hearts of America’s farming and ranching community! We care, and we are listening to your concerns!
Ellen, I invite you and Portia to visit our ranch in South Dakota! Better yet, this farm girl would love to come visit you in Los Angeles and share some agricultural stories on your TV show! Could you find room in your programming for this cattle woman to come sit in your seat on air? We'll dance and talk about cattle; I promise we'll have a great time, and I would love the opportunity to connect with you and your audience!
Best wishes from South Dakota!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.