Monday, April 22, 2013

Sustainable Agriculture-It's One in the Same

Sustainability has become a hot topic in recent years as consumers are beginning to take vested interest in food production and where their eggs, milk, steaks and whole wheat bread originate. As the "green movement" has taken hold, people are becoming more aware of environmental impact and are looking to be more sensible in their consumption and lifestyles.

Unfortunately, the use of this term has also taken a bit of a twist in the agriculture community.
Apparently, not all agriculture practices are considered sustainable. At least by the public. According to the general population, if you operate what may be considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), use conventional production methods or follow other practices that aren't considered all-natural, your business and farm is not sustainable.

Ok-time to turn this story around. It just so happens that agriculture as a whole is THE example of sustainability. It doesn't matter if it's organic, all-natural, grass-finished, cage-free or conventional. In fact, I would argue that conventional is still the most sustainable of all the options. According to Webster's dictionary, sustainable is defined as "a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged". So with this said, anything that conserves, preserves and reserves a resource is considered sustainable. This means organic, all-natural, conventional, any and all properly executed and managed production practices within agriculture fall under this category.

Today's conventional beef production remains highly sustainable
Focusing on beef production specifically, in this article from Missouri Farmer Today, Washington State University professor Jude Capper says "...sustainability in beef production systems is not constrained by size, style or scale. Rather sustainable beef production must be economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially conscious. And, conventional beef production meets all three of those qualifications." She continues by saying that if this wasn't the case, producers wouldn't continue to be in the business. "The long, rich history of farming and ranching in the United States is a testament to the cattle industry's sustainability," Capper said.

Numbers don't carry the weight and effect of personal application and feeling, but they still can't be overlooked. Beef production now requires
-19% less feed
-12% less water
-33% less land and
-has decreased carbon footprint by 16%

And meanwhile, carcass weights have increased almost 175# on average as compared to the 1970's. To top it all off, we've managed to reduce the number of days it takes to get an animal to harvest by four months!!! Guess what this means - conventionally raised beef requires less inputs, takes less time and yields more product.

Put this in the big picture: "In 1977, it would have taken about 3,000 days to make the same amount of beef that it took only 1,900 days in 2007. The result is a savings of 1,100 days of environmental impact," Capper said.

Farmers care for the land and livestock in hopes of preserving
the tradition for generations to come
Producers today want to take every step possible to ensure the livestock and the land are around for generations to come. Passing on the family tradition is the dream. Raising safe and wholesome food for the world is the number one priority. And caring for the resources and animals that are entrusted to us is the commitment.

Consumers are BLESSED with a variety of food choices. That's the beauty of the agriculture industry, there's something for everyone. "...there is a place for all beef production systems, whether conventional, natural or grassfed. Sustainability comes down to which style is best suited to be economically viable and socially and environmentally conscious given the land and resources available," Capper said. "Feeding hungry people in a world where one in seven don't have enough food — that's sustainability."

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin for the brand!!!

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