Feed Bites

How to Talk to Friends and Relatives About Feed and Animal Ag

Written by: Erica Burson   |   January 7, 2022

Environmental footprint

A few days ago, I sat down to read the Washington Post and noticed an article on “healthy” eating, which characterized beef and animal protein as bad for humans and the earth. While some of us in the industry may know a larger picture and disagree, our friends, neighbors and teenage children may not.

Do you know how you can share the story of how, through upcycling and innovation, our industry is making people, animals and our planet healthier?

Here are three facts to help:

1. Upcycling = turning grass and food co-products into food  

For millennia, farmers have known that animals turn plants and food waste into milk, meat and other foods that humans consume. Cattle or sheep on pasture eat plants that would otherwise just decay or burn, producing greenhouse gases with no apparent benefit to humans. Dairy cows consume, as part of a nutritious diet, ingredients such as peanut and almond hulls, citrus pulp, distillers’ grains, rice and soybean hulls and even bakery byproducts. If these items were not upcycled into feed, they would require a huge amount of landfill space to decay, emitting greenhouse gases. For more detail, see Dr. Juan Tricarico’s recent blog.

2. Innovation = less waste, fewer greenhouse gas emissions + clean energy production

Farmers have installed “digesters,” systems in which manure and food waste are broken down by bacteria into biogas (mostly methane) and solids. While the solids can be turned into fertilizer, methane is captured and converted into clean-burning natural gas. In addition to reducing both runoff pollution and greenhouse gases, the clean energy produces income for the farm. Here’s an example of an American Feed Industry Association member doing just this.

3. Novel feed ingredients = producing beef more efficiently

Today, the United States produces the same amount of beef for consumers with 1/3 fewer cows than in the mid-1970s. How? Feed digestibility and nutrition has been improved through enzymes, probiotics and other feed supplements and ingredients. Other benefits of specialized feed ingredients include reducing the amount of ammonia cows excrete in manure and reducing the amount of methane that cows burp! Read more here and here.

So, as I ate lunch--beef brisket, mac and cheese and salad topped with real bacon bits, I relished the delicious food as well as how its production benefitted the planet.

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