The Cost of Corn-Fed Cattle
by Matt Rivera
reporting for The Wall Street Journal
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_pLy7Gjlww
This online video (just 3 1/3 minutes) starts off at the Nissley Brothers Ranch in southern Pennsylvania. The main point of the story is about how the economics of feedlot operations are getting more difficult and what ranchers are doing about it, the main one being finding ways to get by on cheaper feed. One might wonder, with some fear and trepidation, what are these cheaper options that are being used? That question is answered right up front. They are mixing corn silage with other fillers. Those fillers are potato chips and a chocolate blend that includes cocoa shells, M&Ms® and byproducts from Hershey and Mars. No, I’m not joking.
The reporter then quickly points out that cows don’t actually feed on junk food naturally, but prefer grass. We are then transported one hundred miles north to a farm that practices rotational grazing. The two approaches are compared and the pros and cons discussed. It takes longer for grass-fed cattle to reach mature weight and requires more land. Less than 10 percent of cattle in the U.S. are grass-fed. On the other hand, grass-fed is more nutritious and doesn’t need petroleum-based fertilizer for all that corn. This video presents both methods without really passing judgment on either one, but all the key facts are there for a person to make an informed choice. It is surprisingly good for something from the mainstream. I give it a thumbs up.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2008.