The New England Butchers

There are not many slaughterhouses in New England that are equipped to process large quantities of beef, however, Paul Miller ships cattle from his dairy farm in eastern Connecticut some 300 miles to a Pennsylvanian meatpacker.

Miller prefers to send the cattle to a slaughterhouse in the area so he can sell locally produced beef, save on the costs of transportation and avoid long rides for calves that lose weight during shipping. New England officials of agriculture would also prefer that because their purpose is to increase food production to make the region more self-sufficient in case disasters such as huge snow storms and terrorist attacks make it hard to deliver food.

The real stumbling blocks, however, for meat processors and farmers are many: building a slaughterhouse is a huge investment, and local zoning rules bar such businesses. Meatpackers in New England say that it is hard to compete price-wise with slaughterhouses in other states, and it is difficult for them to keep skilled meat cutters and other workers. Because New England only has 28 slaughterhouses, said Chelsea Lewis, agriculture development coordinator for the Vermont Agency for Agriculture. Wisconsin, on the other hand has some 285 small meat processors.

Cowabunga: Is Pasturing Cattle Eco-Friendly as well as Cattle-Friendly

Some people, despite being meat eaters, insist that the animals, before slaughter, were treated humanely. My mother, who will eat a juicy hamburger, yet not veal, is one of these people.

In harmony with an age of relative environmental concern grass-fed beef is somewhat in vogue these days. The consensus is that it is more humane for the cattle and ultimately more yummy. But the main question is, is pasturing eco-friendly as well as cow-friendly?

Scientists at the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science of Japan estimate that producing one kilogram of beef releases more greenhouse gas than driving 155 miles. In Slate Magazine, Brian Palmer wrote:

“Since the average American covers 32 miles to and from work, your 8-ounce steak dinner might contribute to global warming as much as your daily commute.”

The various alternatives to consuming beef, be they grass-fed or corn-fed, are bad for the earth.

Under USDA regulations, cattle bearing the “grass-fed” label only are permitted to eat foods known as “forage” once they’ve been weaned. Forage comprises hay, grass, brassicas (a group of plants including turnips, kale, and cabbage) and the stems and leaves of young shrubs and trees. The cattle must have pasture access. Unless the beef bears an organic label, they might receive hormones and antibiotics, although most producers trying to capture the high-end market avoid such drugs.

When standard cows are ready for fattening, they usually move into a pen with 10 to 14 other animals. Every cow, measuring around five feet long and two feet wide, gets a 16-by-16-foot space.

The objective of adding 1,000 pounds of weight on an animal in a few months takes a formidable amount of grain. During its finishing period, the average beef cow eats 2,800 pounds of corn.

Be that as it may, many researchers claim that cattle fattened at a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) are better for the environment than free-range cattle. Grass-finished cattle, according to recent research, require about two-and-a-half times as much energy to produce as grass-fed ones.

Cows that live in quarters, shoulder-to-shoulder are the same as humans crammed into small urban spaces: Transporting food to the animals, and then the animals to the slaughterhouse, takes less energy for CAFO-raised cattle.

Add to this, cows hopped up on hormones and eating calorie-dense grain grow two to three times as fast, thereby making it easy for ranchers to crank out more beef with fewer resources. And while finishing a 1,200-pound corn-fed cow requires three acres of land, finishing a grass-fed cow, however, requires nine acres.

Farming in Volcanic Ash

In Europe, the recent volcanic ash danger travels at high altitudes, but for Iceland’s farmers the problem is otherwise, which is to say very much on the ground.

Farmers across the region where the volcano erupted under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier have been scrambling to protect their herds from ingesting or inhaling the ash, which can cause long-term bone damage, internal bleeding, and teeth loss.
Volcanic Ash
Near Skogar, that is south of the volcano site, the ash blew down from the mountain, covering the sunlight, pastures, animals and humans in a very thick, very gray paste.

Berglind Hilmarsdottir, a dairy farmer, joined her neighbors Saturday in rounding up her cattle, some 120 in all, and getting them safely to shelter. In the panic, some of her animals got lost in the fog of ash, and the farmers had to drive around searching for them.

Hilmarsdottir said:

“The risk is of fluoride poisoning if they breathe or eat too much,” through a white protective mask…The best we can do is put them in the barn, block all the windows and bring them clean food and water as long as the earth is contaminated,”

In Iceland’s rural region near the volcano, the amount of ash has really become overwhelming. The vast majority of the country’s farming activity is based on herding cattle, horses and sheep, so as you can imagine, the stakes for farmers are quite high.

Brazilian Rain Forests Being Cleared for Cattle Grazing

You may not be aware, but the beef in that hamburger or taco you just ate, may have come form a cow raised in Brazil, now one of the world’s largest cattle producers. While this may not seem like a big deal, especially since most cattle raised there are range or grass fed cattle, it may shock you to learn that raising in South America’s largest country, comes at the expense of depleting Brazil’s greatest natural asset – its tropical rain forests.

In order to raise cattle, large sections of forests are being burned or cut down in order to turn these areas into grasslands suitable for grazing cattle. Brazil has the world’s largest cattle populations and has become the largest beef exporter, even surpassing countries like the U.S.A. and Argentina. But being the largest beef producer and exporter on the planet comes at a price; and that price is a rapid depletion of the rain forests, attributed to supplying close to 20% of the world’s oxygen supply, as swell as being the 4th largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, after China, the U.S.A., and Indonesia. Farmers are burning down the forests so quickly, that a large area in Mato Grosso state (the country’s second largest province) was literally turned into a massive cattle producing factory, complete with huge slaughterhouses for processing all that beef from a cattle population now numbering more than 65 million!

In a ten year period, 1996-2006, an area the size of Portugal, Brazil’s founder country, has been turned into grassland to feed a cattle herd that has grown by more than 20 million animals in a four year period alone.

The Amazon basin, where the world’s largest tropical rain forest is still located, now has more than 15 million cattle. Cattle themselves are responsible for creating a good part of the world’s greenhouse gases, and studies have shown that it takes 13 times the resources to raise cattle over chicken, and 75 more resources than is required for raising crops like potatoes. Clearing forest for cattle raising is not the only environmental problem that Brazil is facing as large tracks of forestland is also being cleared to grow crops like sugar cane and sorghum that are used in the production of ethanol, used as a “bio-fuel” in automobiles and other equipment. Besides contributing so much to world’s oxygen supply the Amazon rainforests, containing one or the most unique eco-systems on the planet. This vast “green region” also helps regulate the world’s rainfall and climate, as well as being the home for some of the most exotic plants and animals on earth. And this region is also “home” for millions of Native Brazilians or Indian tribes who live entirely off the plant and animal life found in the rain forests. When the Amazon is turned more and more into land for growing cattle and bio-fuel crops, it affects the indigenous people living there as well.

It is estimated that 75% of Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation alone.

Brazil’s cattle industry is not likely to decrease any time soon; and agronomists are now looking for ways to grow cattle by more intensive farming methods that would require less land. But even so, every time one of those 65+million bovines chews it’s cud, it naturally releases a certain quantity of greenhouse gas that adds to the overall amount of greenhouse in the atmosphere and intensifies the world’s global warming problem.

It is estimated that 75% of Brazil’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation alone.