In a world with ever increasing worries over environmental sustainability, many people are touting the unsustainability of beef products and promoting the idea of going meatless to save the planet. Before you, the consumer, make a decision to go meatless or continue to eat meat, I encourage you to do your research. This post will share the facts of cattle ranching and help you make an informed decision when it comes to your protein sources.
Let’s dive right into discussing the environmental impact of cattle. Cattle are NOT the drain on environmental resources that you might be led to believe. Cattle are extremely useful in grazing rough country that is inaccessible for farming equipment. In other words, cattle can utilize land that would otherwise be lying dormant. The grazing techniques utilized by ranchers stimulates the land so it can produce more grass not only for cattle, but for wildlife such as deer, elk, and birds. There were as many buffalo on the great plains in the 1800’s than there are cattle now. So, replacing bison herds with cattle herds has not increased emissions. With the recent outbreak of COVID 19, guess what is the only industry that had not slowed down in any way? Your grassroots farmers and ranchers. While the world has come to a halt, ranchers have been operating at 120%, fighting snowstorms, mud, and mad momma cows to raise a new crop of calves to feed you. In the process, global emissions have dropped by 5.9% per month since January! So, while, beef is flying off the grocery shelves, emissions are dropping at an unheard-of rate.
Lets look at a meat alternative. The newest one on the market is the Beyond “meat” company. All ingredients in Beyond’s product must be processed in some way before they can be processed into a form of “meat.” Each step of this processing uses natural resources and produces emissions. Remember that every stop along the production route increases the transportation needs of the company and uses fuel. While there are numerous claims of how environmentally sustainable Beyond “meat” is, there are no factual numbers to back up their claims. But, if you think of the emissions involved in planting a crop, then spraying, fertilizing, watering, and harvesting it; then transporting it to a processing plant that chemically separates the crop into the ingredients used in “meat” alternatives; then again transporting it to another plant that makes the “meat”; then packaging and again placing it on a truck untill it reaches the store, you realize just how many steps it takes to create one “burger.” There is also a lot of waste as a result of this product. After the chemical processing, unused portions of the original crop end up in a landfill; taking up space and years to breakdown.
So, what is healthier for you? The health benefits of eating beef are immense. As opposed to the 22+ ingredients in vegetarian or vegan “meat”. The only “ingredient” in beef is: beef. But a rancher can tell you exactly what that beef has been fed, the protein content of said feed, and most likely, the field the feed was raised on. It is also important to note here that if a calf has needed any medical attention or antibiotics, there are careful records kept and strict withdrawal periods adhered to ensure no residue is found in the meat. On our ranch, we catch and tag (think of a cattle earring) every calf so we know exactly how each calf performs. A catch phrase for the nutritional benefits of beef is that beef contains ZIP: Zinc, Iron, and Protein. Red meat has the most easily digestible forms of proteins that humans can obtain as well as the most useable levels of B vitamins. The recommendation to stay healthy and prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 is to eat large amounts of Zinc, Iron, and B-vitamins. In other words, eat beef to stay healthy!
Beyond claims that their product is much healthier than beef. But, is it? To begin researching their product, I started on Beyond’s website. While I found many claims as to the health of their product, there was no list of ingredients. There was a page for the different types of ingredients they use in their products, but there was no specified list including all ingredients. This was a major red flag for me because it allows companies to not include any ingredients they may not want the public to know about. I’d like to note here that when feeding my animals store-bought feed, I read the ingredient list. The list must contain the exact ingredient because otherwise the company can change the percentages of each ingredient without my knowledge and therefore harm my animals by a drastic change in their diet. So, why would I feed myself a product that the company will not tell me the exact ingredients if I would not feed such a thing to my animals? When I did find a picture of the packaging and the subsequent ingredient label, there were definitely more ingredients than were included on Beyond’s website page. The main ingredient in Beyond’s “beef” is pea protein isolate. While the pea protein isolate is healthier than the soy protein alternative, the peas still have to go through massive amounts of chemical processing to isolate the protein that is used in Beyond’s product. Canola oil is another ingredient that takes several steps to produce. Including a wash with hexane (a neurotoxin) and sodium hydroxide (lye) before it is bleached and put through a steam injection process to remove the odor. Other ingredients in Beyond’s product include MSG and carcinogens such as: Carmel Color (which often is made with gluten) and titanium dioxide.
Any nutritionist will tell you that the less processed a food is the better it is for you so why reinvent the wheel? God gave us animals to eat and created our bodies to breakdown the nutrients in a manner that is beneficial to us. God also created our ecosystem with animals in it, he did not create a world filled with chemicals and processing plants. I realize that saving the environment is an important task and would argue that ranchers were caring for the land for thousands of years before anyone had ever heard of emissions and carbon footprints. God also did not create a world that would deplete its resources before he comes again to create a new heaven and new earth. Talk of a dying ecosystem should not scare you, but excite you as is points to Jesus’s imminent return. I firmly believe God wants us to be stewards of the land he has given us for our time on this earth and to eat the natural fruits of the land.
Consumer, it is up to you to choose. Will you enjoy a healthy steak which is just one ingredient and where its production utilized untillable land? Or do you choose an imitation of the real deal that has taken weeks to process, contains unpronounceable ingredients, and is not healthy for you? As always, I’d encourage you to purchase your beef locally so you can ask the producer any questions you may have about your beef’s production. If you still think a meat alternative is the correct choice for you, that’s fine! Just don’t get caught up in big business propaganda, use common sense, do your research, and read the ingredient label.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Written by Alexis Canen
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“Our Ingredients.” Beyond Meat – Go Beyond®, www.beyondmeat.com/about/our-ingredients/.
Radke. “Yes, Jesus Would Eat Meat & You Can, Too.” Beef Magazine, 19 July 2019, www.beefmagazine.com/beef/yes-jesus-would-eat-meat-you-can-too.