Beef: The Good the Bad and the Smelly
February 9, 2010
I’ll tell you all something right now, right this very second: I love me a good steak. Humans evolved in hunting-gathering clans and as far as I’m concerned, we evolved around fresh, lean, beautiful STEAK. Everytime I see a cow walkin down the sidewalk towards me, I say “hello cow!” and give that heifer a big hug, because I appreciate what his species has done for us. But let’s get down to business. Is eating beef on a regular basis sustainable? NO. As Ricky Ricardo would say: let me s’plain this to you. Cows like to eat, they do it all day actually. Most cows in America enjoy a double life: fresh-air and green grass in the pastures and another less-than-stellar life in a feedlot, but they get to eat all they want. Instead of some nice fresh grass, the cows are fed a feed mixture in which grain is the primary ingredient. Let’s break that down, too. As of right now, it takes an average of 1,000 metric tons of irrigation water to produce 1 metric ton of grain. Let’s take that statistic farther. Cattle consume 16x more grain than they put back as marketable beef. Kicker: You can save more water by decreasing your annual beef consumption by 1 kg (2.2 lbs) than you can by not taking a shower for about 2 years!
So we’ve gone over the good, we’ve hit the bad, but why is the beef industry smelly? It’s a simple answer: Feedlots. I like to think of feedlots as giant frat house parties for cattle. The cattle that are coming back from the rangelands/pastures are placed in warehouses or big plots in which they gorge themselves on that yummy feed we discussed, which is also laced with antibiotics to promote size and “health”. So when you go to your fav burger joint and get a big ole’ number 2 combo for only $2.99, you can thank a feedlot. They’re efficient. They’re industrialized. They’re stinky. Imagine all that cow manure. It’s gotta go somewhere, right? Sure does, and sometimes it finds its way into the watershed, the air (methane), and in your food. So what’s my message of the day here? What in sweet baby Jeebus’ name am I getting at here? Don’t eat that 99 cent hamburger. Go for that nice rib eye on a special occasion. You’ll feel better, your cow friends will love you (kinda, not really), and you’ll be promoting a less cow-flatulent atmosphere. That’s a load of wins for everyone.