Are there any environmental concerns with raising beef cows?

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Elyse Gulgowski asked a question: Are there any environmental concerns with raising beef cows?
Asked By: Elyse Gulgowski
Date created: Wed, Jul 7, 2021 6:12 AM
Date updated: Thu, Jun 23, 2022 4:06 PM

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Are there any health concerns with beef cattle?

  • There are potential health concerns when cattle eat off the ground, including parasite infections; however, feed costs represent the primary input cost on any beef cattle operation and as such, feed waste is a driving factor for feeders. Feeders can be simple like racks to hold round bales. Photo credit: Bigstock.com

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For the first time, the USDA has asked Americans to think about the environmental impact of the food we eat. Unsurprisingly, the cattle industry doesn't like it one bit. A diet heavy in red meat is unsustainable -- and raising cows produces five times more greenhouse gasses than other animals raised for meat. This doesn't…

Learn More About how raising beef balances the environmental, social and economic pillars of sustainabiltiy > But conservation is never complete; farmers and ranchers will continue to work hard to feed a growing population, while, at the same time, working to reduce water use, care for the land, and protect the environment.

Environmental impact of beef, pork, poultry July 21, 2014 / 3:10 PM / AP Raising beef for the American dinner table does far more damage to the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs or...

Cows also put out an enormous amount of methane, causing almost 10 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change. There has been a lot of hope that Beyond...

There are potential health concerns when cattle eat off the ground, including parasite infections; however, feed costs represent the primary input cost on any beef cattle operation and as such, feed waste is a driving factor for feeders. Feeders can be simple like racks to hold round bales.

Beef production has several distinct and significant impacts on the environment. More agricultural land is used to raise cattle than all other domesticated animals and crops combined. In addition, cattle eat an increasing proportion of grain produced from agriculture, are one of the most significant contributors to water pollution and soil degradation, and are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Meat-free movement. Environmental considerations may factor into people’s food choices, but those decisions are also based on religious and cultural beliefs and traditions, as well as personal tastes. In low-income countries, there may not be any choice. It’s why Tate and Mitloehner believe the meat-free movement can go only so far.

If feedlots are not managed properly, uncontrolled runoff from beef cattle feedlot pens may pollute public waters, thus may pose a risk to aquatic life, as well as recreational and drinking water. The Clean Water Act requires management practices to control runoff from feedlots.

Their goal was to discover what is the environmental and land resource cost if all the nation’s cattle were pasture-raised. Previous studies on the matter have been done, but Hayek and Garrett point out considerations that haven’t been sufficiently taken into account, such as the fact that grass-fed cows grow slower and grow to be smaller than their grain-finished kindred.

There are cows out there that will do worse on grass than if they are on grain (or, rather grass supplemented with grain) and that's because they don't have either the gut capacity, microflora species, and/or even hereditary "feed convertibility" to get fat on grass that's even of moderate quality.

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