It is likely that a farm who cares about sustainability also cares about the welfare of their animals. The aim of this article is to get a better understanding of the farm to table mechanisms.
Sustainable diets are those diets that have low environmental impact and contribute to food and nutrition security and a healthy life for present and future generations.
Those who value sustainability typically also value animal rights. At a minimum, farm animals deserve to be exposed to the outdoors in their natural habitat with access to clean water, appropriate space to flock, and healthy food that fit their natural diet.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
- A sustainable diet would respect the environment and ecosystem, be accessible, economically attainable, affordable, safe, and healthy while limiting resources and fossil fuels. Agriculture is responsible for 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
- All research concludes that beef is the worst form of animal product for the environment. The problem arises from the fact that cattle fart and burp a lot which releases methane into the air. It is estimated that a cow releases 160-320 liters of methane per day.
- Carbon is stored in soil so the traditional method of leaving cows to graze in the same plot of land for an extended period of time will release more carbon into the air as the soil becomes exposed.
More Sustainable Farming Practice
- A more sustainable method is called adaptive multi-paddock grazing which entails cattle being moved frequently from one plot to another to provide adequate rest time for the regeneration of grass. This adaptive technique ensures that carbon is not being released from the soil as the grass stays long enough to protect the soil. These farms are considered “carbon neutral” or “carbon negative.”
- The “finishing” phase refers to the three months prior to slaughter. Traditional factory farms will fatten the cows up with grain in feedlots of confined animal feeding operations. Only about 3% of all cattle are given the opportunity to graze on grass during this last phase of life, thus why it is challenging to find this quality of beef.
- I am currently on the hunt for an affordable farm which is sustainable and produces organic, grass fed, and grass finished beef. These sustainable, high quality farms are hard to come by but if anyone is successful in finding a farm, let me know. I don’t feel comfortable with eating the red meat from traditional grocery stores after all my research on this topic.
- These statistics show that a plant based lifestyle is more friendly to our planet:
- According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce just ONE gallon of milk.
- 1 pound of beef = 90-100 grams protein
- Costs 20 – 80 gallons of water per gram of protein
- 1 gallon of milk = 128 grams of protein
- Costs 15 gallons of water per gram of protein
- 1 pound of tofu = 45-55 grams of protein
- Costs 6 gallons of water per gram of protein
- 1 pound of oats = 75 grams of protein
- Costs 3.8 gallons of water per gram of protein.
Be Kind to Animals
- As I mentioned above, to be truly sustainably in all aspects of ethical farming is labor intensive and these farming practices lead to low profit margins. That is why there are not nearly enough humane farms for the amount of meat Americans consume.
- Although eating animal products can never be completely humane, there are ways to consume animal products in a more humane fashion. That being said, modern marketing makes it challenging to understand what is truly humane.
- Cage-free eggs may sound appealing and healthier but in reality this is marketing gimmick. These are overpriced eggs coming from hens who were allowed to roam around the shed with other birds but not allowed freely in a pasture. This is not truly humane as it doesn’t allow for free range around a natural outdoor environment. These spaces are usually overcrowded as well.
- When I purchase eggs, I typically buy them from a family owned business who are certified humane and allow their birds to be pasture raised. This ensures the birds have not been confined to a small shed or cage. I encourage you to explore the ethics behind the companies you purchase animal products from.