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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Lesson in Resource Utilization

Anti-livestock production groups often claim that vegetarian diets are more efficient from a resource stand point. This argument has a two pronged approach. The first point is that the grain used to fatten livestock could be fed to people directly more efficiently. The other argument states that livestock, particularly cattle, graze on land that could be devoted to crop production which would also prove more efficient.

It is true that it takes more pounds of grain to create a pound of meat. However, simply evaluating efficiency on a pounds of food available basis is irrational. A more suitable approach is to evaluate food sources from a nutritional standpoint. Calorie for calorie, beef is one of the most efficient sources of nutrients available. Beef provides excellent zinc, iron, protein, and B vitamins. (Think of the total cereal commercials...I'd have to eat how many servings of corn to get the same amount of protein in one serving of beef??) Check out this site for more details. Furthermore, it is a common misconception that modern day cattle producers feed grain to cattle almost exclusively except for a few small scale grass-fed producers. In fact most cattle spend only 4 to 6 months of their life on a grain-based diet. The balance of their lives are spent grazing on grass.

The argument that livestock grazing takes valuable farmland out of crop production also needs some clarification. According to, 85 percent of the land used for livestock grazing is unsuitable for crop production. Which means it might look a little like this:

As the world's population continues to grow, agriculturalists will need to utilize all of their resources effectively to meet the growing demand for food. Livestock production is well suited to play a large role in this mission. Livestock grazing enables us to take an otherwise inedible food source (grass) and turn it into a nutritionally superior food source.

Nutritious, delicious and efficient!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing and supporting farmers! Love me some BEEF!! Just hearing Sam Elliott's voice makes me crave a big old steak!



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