Thursday, September 4, 2008

More on grazing

Lot's of people who are worried about human impact on the environment argue that if we eliminated meat from our diet we would lower the agricultural impact we are having. Their point is that a large quantity of the grain we grow and the fuel we use to grow it, transport it, and process it goes toward meat production. Supposedly reducing the amount of meat consumed would free this all up for humans. It probably wouldn't actually reduce the amount of land in production, the protein we get from meat would still have to come from somewhere. It wouldn't reduce the amount of fuel or the expense and damage done by processing either. Soy beans, the best non-meat protein source need to be extensively processed to be usable by humans. So, it's probably a wash. What would reduce the environmental impact of meat is if more of it was produced in a grazing rather than a feedlot system. For example, on my micro-farm we graze about three acres of land that is unsuited for crops, or for buildings. From this three acres we harvest four gallons of milk and three dozen eggs every day. We will also be able to harvest, as the system completes a full cycle, ten extra goats which could be used for meat or move on to be dairy animals else where, two beefs, and 50 broilers each year. That's about 1500 lbs of meat. To do this we will import about 800 lbs of locally produced grain and 1 1/2 tons of local hay. These imported feeds will be reduced as the quality of our pasture improves, which it will every year. My point is that a lot of food can be produced on marginal land, using methods that improve the land and reduce the environmental impact of our food. It can only be done using animals because they can convert plants we can't use into protein we can use.
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