Cattle May Move Inside With The Chickens.

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As many of us know, big commercial chicken raising operations are often quite nasty places. These chickens are grown to market size in huge sheds like the one in the image to the left. Now it seems the dairy, beef, lamb, and pork produces want to move indoors also. I would have thought this a joke if JD had not sent me a link to this BBC article. Even still, I checked the date of the story to make sure it was not April 1st. I also found another source for the same information. I recommend you all read the article but the summary is as follows.

Cows fart. Cows burp. Cows fart and burp a lot. I can attest to this from first hand experience. I grew up beside a small dairy farm and there is nothing quite as funny to young boys as the explosions cows are capable of emitting from either end of their bodies. These emissions, in addition to causing belly aches from laughter in children, contain the greenhouse gas methane. This methane has been a target of many advocates of a meat free diet, saying that if people reduce the amount of meat they eat, we can greatly reduce the number of cattle raised for food, thereby significantly reduce greenhouse emissions. Apparently sheep, and to a lesser extent pigs, also contribute to global warming.

The meat producers of the world are worried that the evidence does indeed show these animals to contribute to global warming. They are worried that this knowledge will reduce meat consumption, threatening their businesses. So, the meat industry has come up with the idea of raising cattle indoors in the same way that chickens are raised. They claim this will be a more “humane and healthy” environment for the animals. I don’t get that reasoning, as I would think the chickens raised in these artificial environments, full of hormones and antibiotics, are not healthier themselves, or healthier for you to eat, than organic chickens allowed to roam outdoors.

If the benefits to the animals or the consumers of their meat can be debated, some benefits to the meat industry are clear. The huge buildings needed to grow cattle to market would be sealed and the gas produced by the cattle would be captured before it can escape to the atmosphere. These gasses might also be able to be marketed as fuel of some sort. Supposedly the animals can be raised more cheaply indoors. I think this is a big reason for the push to move sheep and cattle into large sheds. The meat producers may be using the global warming concerns to try and do something they have wanted to for years, but which they knew would be politically and ethically unacceptable to most people.

There are several interesting quotes in the BBC article, but one I found particularly odd said that by keeping the animals inside, “animals do not waste food energy on running about and keeping warm”. The idea is that they would require significantly less grain to get them to market size. Another quote in the article says, farm animals “are life forms and deserve respect”. I am not sure that by building huge hanger-like sheds to confine and control cattle, we are “respecting” them.

There is also a lot of recent evidence that free roaming, grass fed beef is much healthier for us to eat than conventionally grain fattened beef. Here, and here, are a couple of articles that discuss the advantages of grass fed beef. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I do enjoy it occasionally. I am not happy that the meat industry is using global warming concerns to bolster their arguments for more controlled, intensive and artificial methods of producing the meat we eat. I have a feeling the benefactors of a change like this will be the big meat producers, not consumers, and certainly not the animals.

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Will Sig
1 Jennifer Robin

What a travesty. Ever since I learned about the differences between grain fed and grass fed beef, I have only eaten the latter. Same goes for salmon; I eat wild caught only. Did you know that farm raised salmon is grain fed too, with the result of altering the makeup of essential fatty acids in the marketed product, rendering it no more healthy to eat than grain fed beef?
Scary part is, I can see this indoor raising of livestock actually coming to pass because of the ability to trap and use the methane gas. At what cost to our dietary health is the question.

Jennifer Robins last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

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2 Karen

This is frightening news. Feedlots are bad enough, and putting animals indoors will marginalize them even more from our landscape. Isn’t it nice to see cows at pasture as you’re driving down the highway, or worse a feedlot. Even if people see feedlots we can hope that their horrifying visibility will strike a chord with people and make them think twice about where their food is coming from.

There is a company called La Cense Beef that I think is trying to promote grass-fed, with a poster campaign in New York with signs like “It’s the end of the Feedlot as we know it.” My only hope in this case is that grass-fed, humanely-raised beef companies such as La Cense Beef, will, through advertising, be able to turn peoples heads and increase consumer awareness and choices when purchasing meat, hence, demanding nationwide change in beef production standards.

The company is just beginning this campaign, which I hope will be big. One component of the campaign is a website where you can enter to win a year’s worth of grass-fed beef (and a freezer to put it in) and enter a slogan, song, or movie line, with “grass-fed” in it – promoting awareness of the term.

the website for this is http://www.winagrassfedcow.com

and La Cense Beef’s website is http://www.lacensebeef.com

Viva la Grass-fed!

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3 Bob

Very interesting Will, so you try to cut down on greenhouse emissions, helping us out one way, but then there is the grass fed vs grain fed and how grass fed is more healthy, so many choices, which is right? maybe a combination? Learning so much here.

Bobs last blog post..Phoenix Mars Lander’s Arrival

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4 Angus Bulls

Stick with grass fed beef all the way. You obviously need alot more productive land for it, but in the end happy cattle will make better beef.

I understand the environmental/economic reasons behind moving cattle indoors. I have even read somewhere of experiments in Australia to transfer gut bacteria from kangaroos to the stomachs of cattle and sheep , because the kangaroo doesn’t give off the same greenhouse gases!

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5 Rob

We should be concerned about the methane production of cattle and other farm animals. This is an issue.
We should eat less meat and encourage folks to go meat free.
It would be completely wrong, however, to move back to intensive animal production which is inhumane.
Thanks for post – keep it coming!

Robs last blog post..perfect parsnips?

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6 Swubird

Will:

I have to agree with you on this issue. Keep the cows outside, and let them eat grass. Indoor methane capture would probably be more difficult than it seems. On the other hand, ammonia emissions from cow dung all over the place is detrimental to the air quality. Maybe it’s a toss up. Methane, or ammonia. Either way, I think the beef growers have finally gotten Mad Cow Disease!

Have a nice day.

Swubirds last blog post..A MUCH DIFFERENT FUTURE

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7 chaosgone

I hope they don’t do that. If beef farmers want help the environment, they should find a way to make fuel out of all of the cow dung.

chaosgones last blog post..The Top 100 Songs of 1978

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8 Will

Hi Jennifer – You are right about the salmon. I have written about it a long time ago, links below. Maybe it is time for an update.

http://willtaft.com/environment/salmon-color-added/

http://willtaft.com/health/tainted-farmed-fish/

-Will

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9 Will

Hi Rob, Swubird and chasgone – Shutting them inside in crowed unnatural conditions really disturbs me. And I am not an activist by any means on the eating of meat issue. I eat a lot less than I did as a child, but do not try to convince others that this somehow makes me a better person!

I am, however a huge supporter of the ethical production of food. The idea of raising cattle in the same manner as the factory production of chicken is certainly not ethical.

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10 Lauren

Grass fed beef is definitely a much more environmentally friendly and healthy option for consumers and the environment. Grass fed beef is lower in calories and fat, as compared to grain fed beef, and is high in heart healthy omega 3 acids. I work with La Cense beef which sells 100% Grass Fed Beef directly to consumers, I have to say it is delicious and a product you can enjoy without guilt.

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11 Will

Hi Laren – You are correct in your comment, but the problem is the cost. A New York steak from your site is $32.00 a pound plus shipping. We can buy locally pastured grass fed New York Steaks here for 14.00 a pound. We can also get locally pastured Y Steaks which are unfortunately fed grain for the last couple weeks of their lives, but are 10.00 per pound. Even this is not what most people buy. They go with what their budget will allow and get the mass produced 7 or 8.00 per pound NY steaks at the local discount grocer. We need to stop subsidizing the mass production of unhealthy food and shift those subsidies to healthier alternatives.

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12 Keith

Will, you are correct. As big a health nut as I am, we usually buy our beef from the discount counter at the supermarket. I suppose we need to buy a deep freeze and get a whole cow from one of our farmer friends. Better for them, better for us, better for the animals, too.

As well, one of the “benefits” of paying more would be eating smaller portions of meat and more veggies.

If I can only convince the wife…

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13 HiddenCaches

Wow judging by the picture that place is packed!

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14 Paul

We have 50,000 chickens laying 30,000 eggs a day. We also have livestock. We do our best to make sure all are happy and taken care of. We are shutting down two houses and are considering making an indoor cattle operation out of the former chicken houses. Just got of the phone with my dad and was reading this article as I was talking to him. I know that there are plenty of gripes about commercial farming. But, most of you only know your side of the story. People have to eat. A food shortage would cause a lot more bad than commercial farming is causing now. Right now people should be supporting US growers and keeping China out, then after that is settled, we can start improving things here. When the US growers stop because they can’t compete with the asians, well, the asians have no rules at all, and what are we eating then? I have already seen asian competition shut down hundreds of catfish farms around here. They raise the chickens in pens over the water and the chicken feces feeds the fish. Then they bring it here and you eat the fish, but nobody talks about that. The chickens are fed the guts from the processed fish. Maybe that is why bird flu always comes from over there, where the endless loop comes full circle.

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15 Jan

I think the last word about how animals are farmed should be what is best for our human health, and grass fed cows are much healthier. Grain fed beef have too much Omega 6 and throw out the Omega 3 and Omega 6 balance in our system. Plus I loathe the way they spend their last few days in the blazing sun in a small holding pen that is just dirt.

It is undoubted that farm raised animals add to the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, but what about all the land that is cleared to grow the crops for the non-meat eaters? It would be interesting to know what the land clearing effect has had as trees use carbon dioxide.

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16 Paul Olivier

In this paper linked here, I suggest that raising poultry and animals indoors makes sense from many perspectives. But to do so in the conventional way is totally indefensible.

Thanks.
Paul

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17 Will

Thank you Paul! I look forward to reading your perspective on this. Thanks also for the link to the EPWT site. I LOVE this part of the Mission Statement:

Our mission is easily defined. It calls for an end to industrial agriculture in Vietnam. This means no chemical fertilizers or synthetically derived pesticides, herbicides or fungicides – no imported feedstuffs – no factory farming of animals or poultry – no animals housed on concrete floors – no antibiotics administered to anything destined for human consumption – and, of course, nothing that resembles the inefficient, unproductive, unsustainable, large-scale mono-cropping as typically seen in the West.

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18 Paul Olivier

Will,
I would appreciate hearing from you. From the perspective of living in a developing country, what I have written makes sense. But adapting this experience to the USA is a bit more tricky.
Thanks.
Paul

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