TSCRA Op-Ed: Earth Day is every day

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These days everyone from celebrities to journalists to politicians has an opinion about the “right” way to raise food. Too often their criticism of ranchers like me and my family relates to the environment and the crazy and misguided notion that raising cows for food is bad.

I can’t ever remember a time when my family wasn’t in the cattle business. After all, our goal is and has always been to keep our business around for as long as possible. For four generation now we’ve done that. We’ve worked this land, conserved and preserved it, so that our children and grandchildren can continue on with the family business.

This wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t take care of what we have, which leads me to my point. A lot of people may talk about minimizing impacts on the environment, but Texas ranchers actually get up and do it every day.

If you’re unfamiliar with the beef industry, or maybe confused about what it is my family does, let me help clear up some of the misinformation that’s out there. For starters, today’s American rancher feeds about 144 people worldwide, compared to 26 people in 1960. This number will only increase in the future. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that in 50 years the world population will need 70 percent more food than what we have now.

How will we increase our supply? We can’t tear down cities to make room for increased grazing lands, so we must make more beef using fewer resources. Texas ranchers are doing this now, and we will continue to do this even as grazing lands become more scarce while the population continues to boom.

We are constantly creating new, innovative practices that help us do more with less, and it’s working. Today’s rancher produces 13 percent more beef from 30 percent fewer animals, minimizing resources like land and water. The carbon footprint of beef has been reduced by more than 16 percent, and the overall environmental impact of producing beef continues to shrink—even though we continue to feed more and more people. Each pound of grain-finished beef today requires 45 percent less land, 76 percent less water, 49 percent less feed, generates 51 percent less manure and 42 percent less carbon emissions. We’re proud of our environmental track record, and rightfully so.

And while celebrities and politicians alike try to encourage Americans from eating beef because it’s “bad for the environment”, the facts simply tell a different story. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, all of U.S. agriculture in total accounts for only 6 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. More specifically, the entire livestock sector accounts for only 3.4 percent. You certainly don’t hear or read about those statistics very often.

When you consider that you’re getting a safe and high-quality product that provides 10 essential nutrients necessary for a healthy, active lifestyle, a 3.4 percent impact seems pretty minimal.

I want people to know that the U.S. beef supply is the safest, healthiest and most abundant in the world. It’s produced with the utmost care for the animals and the environment. They should know that they just don’t have to take my word for it, but that many experts agree that U.S. beef production serves as a model for the rest of the world.

Maybe you celebrate Earth Day on a specific day or throughout the entire month of April. As you do so, keep in mind that Texas ranchers protect the earth every day, and have been doing so long before there was a designated holiday. We take great pride in providing safe and healthy food for our family and yours.

Please know that you can feel good about choosing beef because it’s not only good for you and your family, but also good for the environment.

Blake Birdwell is a fourth generation rancher. He lives in Muleshoe, Texas, with his wife Elaine and young son Beau. He and his dad, Clay Birdwell, are partners in the Hip O Cattle Co. They run a cow-calf operation and raise horses.



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Amy    
April, 22, 2013 at 07:01 AM

I don't have an opinion about the "right" way to raise food. My food is grown, not raised. I'm sure the CattleNetwork does not care what I have to say, so... -This film depicts several cattle ranchers who do not agree with the opinions stated in this article: http://www.peaceablekingdomfilm.org/ -This film is based on research done by a man who used to be in the cattle industry and has determined, without a doubt, that eating beef is not good for you and your family: http://www.forksoverknives.com/about/ And a quote from Don Robertson: "Did you know that beef cattle feedlots typically use 12 pounds of corn, oats, and soybeans to produce just one pound of meat... So we're using twelve times the amount of resources it takes to grow plants for human consumption. That means 12 times the amount of land, 12 times the amount of water, 12 times the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and fuel for farm machinery. The foods being produced also require far greater energy use for refrigeration than do those from plant sources. Meat production is terribly wasteful and diverts valuable resources that could be used to alleviate hunger."

ethan    
michigan  |  April, 22, 2013 at 07:30 AM

Um people don't "need" beef to live. They also don't need steroids and antibiotics which cause health problems. India doesn't even have it at McDonald's. Thanks for posting an ad for the beef industry as "news"...

Wenchypoo    
USA  |  April, 22, 2013 at 08:15 AM

Can we tear down Detroit?

maxine    
SD  |  April, 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

It could be entertaining to read the foolishness from dedicated animal worshipping zealots, but time is too short to have it fouling an ag information website, imo. Facts remain that cattle are raised better than ever with advice from dedicated animal science applied by master graziers who have gained tremendous 'cattle sense' from previous generations of their families living on the land. Today, we produce far more pounds of much leaner beef with fewer animals than even ten to twenty years ago. The energy footprint of nutrient rich beef is less than claimed by those who would end meat production. Stated realizing facts mean little to 'anti' anything zealots, just hoping to enlighten those who are willing to think and do their own non-biased research before forming opinions.

Neil M Pine    
CA  |  April, 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Them COW boys are sure full of their own BULL!

Neil M Pine    
CA  |  April, 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM

World wide livestock production responsible for 51% of all global warming gasses. Source: World Watch Institute. Statistically, it takes up to 8500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. It only takes 25 gallons of water to create a pound of grain. Drought is a contingent factor (worldwide), in livestock production! Source: Stockholm Water Institute. Read the upcoming book by Neil M Pine, "The Conscious Planet, a Vision of Sustainability, Peace & Prosperity" It is the Ecological, Physiological, & Compassionate Psychological justification for Sustainability and a Vegan Macrobiotic Diet!

Neil M Pine    
CA  |  April, 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM

World wide livestock production responsible for 51% of all global warming gasses. Source: World Watch Institute. Statistically, it takes up to 8500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. It only takes 25 gallons of water to create a pound of grain. Drought is a contingent factor (worldwide), in livestock production! Source: Stockholm Water Institute. Read the upcoming book by Neil M Pine, "The Conscious Planet, a Vision of Sustainability, Peace & Prosperity" It is the Ecological, Physiological, & Compassionate Psychological justification for Sustainability and a Vegan Macrobiotic Diet!

Neil M Pine    
Ca  |  April, 22, 2013 at 12:24 PM

*Cattle Ranching # 1 cause of Rainforest destruction and endangered species *Cattle Ranching # 1 cause of Famine (Worldwide): Almost a billion people in 3rd world nations starve while millions of pounds of grain are fed to cattle; the meat will be sold to the affluent nations of the world! *Cattle Ranching # 1 Cause of Global warming (51% of all greenhouse gasses) *Cattle Ranching # 1 Cause of Pollution (Land, Water, & Air): Twice that of all industrial pollution combined! *Cattle Ranching # 1 Cause of Drought (worldwide) 1 pound veggie burger (25 gal water to produce) 1 pound of beef (8500 gal of water to produce) Read Neil M Pine's upcoming book "The Conscious Planet," available soon through Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and selected book retailers.

Mark    
Wisconsin  |  April, 23, 2013 at 09:05 AM

All these pushy drug store cowboys tellin' us how to farm. Well, all you self-important fools can stuff it back from where you first evacuated it. Thanks for the wooden nickles, pardners...now go back to paying too much for organic vegan crap no one needs and most can't afford. Maybe you won't be so talkative with your mouths full of elitist chow? One can hope, no?


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