I recently ran across an article that I think all cattlemen and other beef industry professionals should check out. Entitled, “Carnivore’s Dilemma,” National Geographic Senior Environment Editor Robert Kunzig chronicles his experiences at a Texas feedlot, as well as tracking the steers from the finishing phase to a packing plant, and the resulting beef products to local barbecue joints. His conclusions offer insight into how our consumers view the beef industry and how knocking down communication barriers can really serve our industry well.
I’m sure Kunzig had some preconceived notions about animal welfare, agriculture and the environment, and beef as a part of a healthy diet. However, I think he tried to stay unbiased as he conducted his research for this article.
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The opening sentences of this piece will kind of give you an idea of the issues Kunzig explored in the article. Here is an excerpt:
Kunzig writes, “Meat is murder. Meat—especially beef—is cigarettes and a Hummer rolled into one. For the sake of the animals, our own health, and the health of the planet, we must eat less of it. Meat is delicious. Meat is nutritious. Global demand is soaring for good reason, and we must find a way to produce more of it. In short, meat—especially beef—has become the stuff of fierce debate.
“Last January, as part of a longer journey into the world of meat, I spent a week at Wrangler Feedyard, in Tulia, TX. I was looking for an answer to one fundamental question: Is it all right for an American to eat beef?”
Kunzig looked at everything from cattle diets, to antibiotics, to transportation, to slaughter, to greenhouse gas emissions, to animal welfare, to chicken vs. beef in the diet. While I would argue with some of his conclusions -- for example, he blamed his raised cholesterol at his annual physical to hanging out with cowboys and eating steak for a week -- I really did appreciate this perspective of the beef industry being shared with National Geographic readers.
I must say I’m incredibly proud of the cattlemen who were interviewed for this article, as well. They spoke very eloquently on treating cattle with respect and dignity and explained to Kunzig that one steer can produce 1,800 meals.
Here is one quote that I particularly liked:
Kunzig shared, “At Wrangler I asked the veterinarian, Carter King, how it felt to ship cattle he had watched over. ‘I tell you what,’ he said, ‘every time I drive down the interstate and pass a truck that has a load of fats in it, I silently say thank you—thank you to the cattle for feeding our country.’
Frankly, there was too much ground covered in this article for me to comment on every facet, but I wanted to share this piece with all of you and get your feedback on it. Take a few minutes to read the article and let me know what you think? Did Kunzig get it right? Which points need clarification? And how can we better bridge the gap between consumers and producers so that more consumers understand and appreciate where their beef comes from, and how it’s produced? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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