Eating meat not bad for environment
This letter is in response to comments in The Herald as well as some provincial government members advocating eating less meat.
As a farmer, I would like to tell you why eating meat is not harmful to the environment. Quite the opposite; agriculture without meat production is not sustainable!
Throughout the ages farm animals were raised not only for food production, but also for the much-needed nutrients animals produce in the form of manure. Manure contains both macro and micro nutrients needed to replenish the nutrients in the soil which the plants remove. Also, because manure is renewable, it’s the most sustainable fertilizer. Livestock producers help feed vegans that prefer to buy fruits and vegetables grown with renewable, organic fertilizers.
Secondly, there are many by-products from food production that are not suitable for human consumption, such as corn distillers grains, canola meal, soymeal, wheat middlings and many, many more. Not to mention all the marginal land that can only grow grass which can’t be used for producing food for humans. These products are currently all used in animal feed rations where they are being recycled into meat, dairy, eggs, etc.
As livestock farmers, we must be conscious of the environment and we are committed to continuous improvement of our environmental impact. Even so, I think here in North America we have a success story to tell; livestock farms have come a long way from back in the ’50s. I’ll give you an example: in 1950 there were 22 million dairy cows in the U.S. producing 117 billion pounds of milk. In 2015 there were nine million dairy cows in the U.S. (-59 per cent) producing 209 billion pounds of milk (+79 per cent). The carbon footprint per pound of milk produced in 2015 was one-third of that for every pound of milk produced in 1950! We see impressive improvements across all livestock sectors in both Canada and the U.S.
There are over 200 million cats, dogs and horses in North America eating millions of pounds of food daily. American cats and dogs are responsible for producing around 64 million tons of greenhouse gasses annually. The excrement of all these dogs and cats is not recycled into useful nutrients for crop production like farm animals, but mostly ends up in the city sewer systems or landfill. I’m not saying that people need to get rid of their pets but as citizens of this world we should all be committed to doing our share. Food for thought!