I recently read an opinion column written by Jared Stone for the LA Times titled, “If we're going to eat cattle, let them eat grass.” The op-ed shared the benefits of grass-fed beef on the environment and the perceived harm that feedlots cause to the planet.
Stone shares how his family purchased a whole beef carcass from an animal that was raised on an olive orchard. The bulk beef purchase lasted his family five years, and overall, he was a satisfied customer who went on to write a book about his purchase titled, “Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family.”
Of course, I’m happy Stone found beef that suited his family’s needs. Whether it’s grass-fed, grain-fed, organic, natural or any other branded beef program, the great thing about the U.S. beef production chain is we have a lot of choices to offer our consumers.
However, what I didn’t appreciate about Stone’s column was the misinformation he shared about grain-fed beef and how he created a villain out of modern-day feedlots that are able to produce more beef using fewer resources.
Granted, while Stone admits that the drought in California where he resides creates some challenges to raising grass-fed beef, he concludes that if we simply stop raising crops to feed livestock, we will miraculously fix the state’s water issues.
This op-ed begs for some rancher comments to balance out the conversation, with many readers sourcing documentaries like “Food Inc.” and “Cowspiracy” as reasons why we shouldn’t eat beef at all.
Since this topic has been covered many times in BEEF over the years, I’ve compiled eight resources (from our archives and from other reputable sources) as references to help negate the claims made in this op-ed piece:
1. Reality vs. myth of animal feeding and the environment
2. “Telling the grass-fed beef story” from Penn State Extension
3. “Water rights & wrongs” from American Cowboy
4. 5 ways cattle help the environment
5. Is grass-fed beef better for the environment?
6. Conventional beef production best for the environment
7. “Raising beef is more sustainable than you think” from Facts About Beef
8. Sustainable beef? U.S. has most environmentally friendly livestock industry in the world
If you have a free minute, use these resources to help you compile a response to the LA Times op-ed, or feel free to share today’s blog on social media to explain how conventional beef production is a sustainable model.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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