Environmental Sustainability

Q:  I was shopping around for grass-fed meats today and came across your site.  First off, I love the attitude as well of the selection of products that you offer.  I love the stance against "good-feely" talk and the adherence to evidence based argument.  I also love that the site poses its disagreements with grain-based agriculture while still standing up for the average, good hearted farmer.

I read through the FAQ's hoping to find any information related to pesticide/fertilizer usage.  I understand that USDA Certified Organic is a complicated and misleading label, and that agricultural chemical use is complicated and has a lot of myths surrounding it as well.  I also understand that the healthiness of beef is much more dependent on being grass-fed than any other factor.  However, for myself personally, the major reason for not just going down to the grocery store for meat is concerns about the impact of agriculture on ecosystems and the environment at large.  I am not a farmer, nor will I pretend to know all the ins and outs of ecological science.  I would just like to buy meat from a source that I trust is concerned about environmental impact.  I also came across another website for a company who sells buffalo meat that is committed to helping restore the grasslands of the Great Plains with their agricultural practices.  I am very much considering buying from them.  However, I would rather buy from your company, because I live in Texas, and I want to buy meats other than buffalo.  Please let me know any information you may have about the environmental impact of how the meat you sell is raised, as well as the pastures themselves.  It would also be of help to me to understand what the company's overall stance on environmental impact is.

A:  There are a lot of myths being spread around about the food and agriculture industries.  Most of the information that one reads and hears is bogus, half truths, and total opinion.  Yes, some information is factual and spot on the target.  But many people do not have the experience or understanding to utilize what is defined as critical thinking.  Then again some people come by it naturally, others will never have a clue.  The folks who do not think critically tend to believe whatever seems to make sense by the way it is told.

Because the majority of people believe the myths (because that's what they are exposed to most) marketers take advantage of them.  Some marketers are no more tuned into the truth than others, therefore they naturally resonate with folks in general who have the same beliefs and get the sale.  Others actually know different or don't even care one way or the other, but they know that if they tell people what the people want to hear they will get the sale.  There are also folks out there who will say anything and even make stuff up in order to get the sale.  None of these people are actually interested in educating customers (other than in repeating the myths) because many potential customers actually do not want to learn anything different, nor are they pleased when told they believe in myths.  (Some of our competitors advertise ground meat between buns.  They eat grain and high glycemic foods themselves.  They claim they treat animals better.  They claim they are better stewards of the land.  Some claim they have special livestock.  Many do not really understand nutritional science, they just market meats because they are in it for the extra money.)

I've been a scientific nut for as long as I can remember.  I strive to understand things on a fundamental basis.  I've also been in professional marketing since 1966.  I have always prided myself on telling it like it is and letting the chips fall where they may.  There are many times that approach loses the sale.  But I will not have it any other way.  I want to feel real good about what I do.  That's why my website is pretty blunt on the factual stuff and runs counter to so many myths as you have noted.

That said, let me say these nice buffalo folks are implying that they are special.  Well, in a way they are special.  But are their practices something that we want to support?  For instance, if they are planting old prairie grasses, that's like restoring a Model T.  Will the Model T serve the modern-day needs of man.  In comparison to modern automobiles the Model T is not sustainable.  It is not a safe vehicle.  It burns more fuel per mile driven.  It's slow.  It's uncomfortable.  It's not reliable.  It can't travel as far in its lifetime.  In other words, the Model T is nice but it's not practical.  In the same way there are grass plants that are far more productive than most if not all of the old prairie grass varieties.  I would rather have the best grasses in my pastures for food production because not only is that more sustainable for future food production with growing populations, but it makes my ranch more sustainable -- environmentally and economically.

Overall modern ranchers and farmers are a pretty sophisticated lot.  Just like all professions (modern agriculture is one of the more professional businesses these days) agriculture today is literally on the very cutting edge of science.  Productivity has never been greater and it's going to improve in the decades to come.  All of the work being done is based on becoming more sustainable.  It can be no other way.  Every single land owner who produces crops is focused on sustainability to some degree.  In fact, farmers and ranchers must think of sustainability beyond their lifetimes and that of their offspring.  That's pretty rare in most enterprises.  Because professional folks in agriculture are focused so intently on sustainability, doubting their intentions is really one of the greatest food/agriculture myths going around.

Organic is another myth.  If all the food in America was organic, but people made the same food choices, all food safety issues would be the same and the incidences of chronic disease would be the same.  Additionally, there are many 100% organic toxins that everyone seems to ignore for some reason.  So when it comes to health it's the food choices that make the difference.  Kale, broccoli, spinach, etc. instead of grain.  Grass-fed instead of grain-fed.  Low glycemic instead of high glycemic.  Total nutrient loads instead of partial nutrient loads.  Those are the importance food decisions that all people learn and follow.  If people follow The Real Diet of Man, then we will really see huge changes in the health and well being of all Americans.  If consumers make different food choices the food industry will quickly adapt to the demands of the public.  When that happens it will be a win/win for a long, long time because ranching and farming is based on sustainability.

As for buying locally, that is nice.  But that is not necessary for supporting any farmer.  In fact, most farmers are not interested in dealing with the public.  Buying efficiently and properly is more important.  If it weren't for folks buying from us who are thousands of miles away we would not have a business.  And that's true for most of us in agriculture toady.  It's one of the reason so many roads were constructed in rural America.  It wasn't for consumers to drive out to farmers, but for farmers to transport their production in bulk to the rest of the country.  That's what made cities sustainable.