Food Friday: Moo

A Frisian Holstein cow in the Netherlands: Int...

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Ah yes, the cow. I was familiar with these creatures at an early age. I spent childhood weekends and summers at a cottage my parents owned by a lake. Across the gravel road was a field, and in that field there were always cows. They belonged to the nearby Hutterite colony. I remember waking up in the morning, hearing them moo. One such time, I peeked out my window from my bunk bed, and saw cows everywhere. Some were walking down the gravel road, some were standing there staring. They had escaped.

All my life I have eaten beef, and enjoyed it. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I actually craved steak. When I am out at a restaurant, I often order steak as a treat. I have fond memories of eating homemade hamburgers barbequed at my parent’s cottage, under the canopy of trees and in view of the beautiful lake. My Dad would also barbeque steak, carefully purchased and lovingly prepared, for us all to enjoy.

But since then, I have learned more about the source of all this good food. Apparently cows fart, like, way too much. Their farts contain methane, which is a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than CO2. They also eat massive amounts of grain and corn. It takes about 15 pounds of feed to raise one pound of beef. Much of this feed is grown as mono-crops which reduces biodiversity and depletes the soil. Corn especially, is quite damaging. It creates a tremendous amount of organic waste (think of corn stalks) and when left in fields to rot, more carbon is released into the sky. Even more worrisome, the heavy use of fertilizers in corn fields is causing run off problems in the Gulf of Mexico, creating a huge dead zone in the water, devoid of life.

But cows are not meant to eat corn or grains, they are meant to feed on grass. Feeding them what they are not really meant to eat makes them more prone to disease, and as a result they need to be constantly fed antibiotics. I also don’t like hearing feedlot stories, how some cows are fed parts of other cows, and how the large amount of excrement concentrated in a such a small area creates so much pollution (it is different when they poop all spread out on a large field as it acts like compost). I also don’t like that they are given hormones. What is in all this beef we are eating anyway?

I do love the taste of it though, and the protein punch it delivers. I have happy memories eating it with friends and family. But it is just not good for emissions or the environment. Who knew that livestock was responsible for an estimated 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions? It is shocking really.

So, because my love for the world and humanity goes deeper than my love for a great barbequed steak, I will refrain from personally purchasing beef from now on. I will no longer order it at restaurants. If someone else cooks it for me at a gathering, I will eat it and be grateful for it and enjoy it. Otherwise, no beef for me!

There is a vendor at my neighbourhood farmer’s market that raises and sells bison. Bison is native to where I live, hundreds of thousands of them used to roam here and feed on the wild grasses. This local farmer lets them do the same, and has little to no contact with them until the very end. They are not finished on grains, they do not eat corn. They are not pumped full of hormones. They live outside in the winter, just as they have done for thousands of years. So I have decided that I will buy bison from time to time, as a treat, to replace beef. It is local, lean, and natural. In fact, I made my classic chilli recipe with it last month and nobody even noticed the difference.

Plus they fart, like, way less.

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9 thoughts on “Food Friday: Moo

  1. Years ago I read a book called Dominion and it completely changed the way I looked at the meat that I was eating! We try our hardest to buy only grass feed beef, local meats and meat that is raised in a humane way. The facts about meat production (including the farting!!) are insane once you know it all.
    So good that you are educating yourself and making changes.

  2. That’s quite a resolution in a beef-loving culture. I’m a vegetarian, but I have some of the same quandaries about dairy, which is also very resource-intensive. (I’m sure dairy cows are also flatulant!) Right now I compromise: local, grass-fed milk every two or three weeks, homemade almond milk in between.

    • Good for you! For me, I am taking it step by step, by eliminating the heavy hitters first. I am not sure I could go 100% vegetarian, but deeply respect those that do. My sister is also a vegetarian. 🙂

  3. Kudos on taking such a big step! In addition to being kinder to the planet, you’re also doing your body a favour, as the consumption of beef is associated with heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But I’m sure you knew that… 🙂

  4. Well, I have some good news for you. 🙂 My husband and I raise cattle, they are all grass-fed only, and we don’t pump antibiotics into them. So far (in some 30-odd years) of raising cattle this way, we have had no diseases hit our 40+ head of cattle.

    Also, when it comes to the cow farts, you have to realize that the people who do these studies are biased in making the outcomes appear one certain way. Before we danced our way across the country, it was estimated that about 1 million (at LEAST) bison lived on this land. Having previously raised bison, I can tell you that the cattle don’t seem to fart any more than they do. Nor do our horses, for that matter.

    There are a lot of places to look at in regards to greenhouse emissions. Cattle are not one of them. Should we focus on letting the cattle graze more instead of keeping them on feedlots where we have to feed them only grain? Absolutely! However, there’s really not enough land for this.

    We’re taking the greenhouse thing to the extremes. God isn’t going to let the planet just fizzle up and die while we’re on it. When the end comes, it’s not going to be because of cow farts.

    • That is great that your cattle are grass fed. You probably know more about cattle and bison that I will ever know, having raised them! However I did reference an article while researching this post (http://www.livablefutureblog.com/2010/07/cattle-burps-and-climate-change-what-about-bison-a-response-to-joel-salatin/), that compared the carbon released by the 30 million or so bison historically to the carbon released by all the cattle in North America today. The 30 million bison released about 1/3 that all cattle do today. So they do have an impact.

      I believe God wants us to love and cherish all Creation, and at act as responsible stewards of the Earth. We cannot ignore climate change, thinking that the end is going to eliminate us first. I think it is irresponsible and disrespectful.

  5. Great decision! We have kangaroo and goat meat available to us here in my area of Australia as better options to beef, but we do have some farmers selling more ethically treated, organic and more sustainble beef here too, which is a nice treat for once in a while.

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