Should Grass-Fed Beef MOOOOOOOve onto your plate?

Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

by Daisy Christophel, Communication major

Walking into the grocery store we have two general choices, organic or not. With beef, we have options: grass-fed, grain-fed, (regular) grass-finished, or corn finished. Grass finished means the steer is fed on grain for the first half of his life then his final year before slaughter is finished on grass, corn finished means the opposite.

It’s important to understand what grass-fed beef entails since it can be confused with “organic” or “free-range” labeling. By USDA standards, grass-fed beef means that for the entirety of the animals life it must always be fed grass, forage, and “cereal grains in the vegetative state.”  Checks are done on farms to ensure this process.

Grass-fed beef can still be given hormones, and antibiotics. There is also controversy over the USDA label because grass-fed beef can be imported and it’s a blurry line to decide at what point grains stop being in the vegetative state. Explain this a bit further

What are the good things about grass-fed compared to grain? In short, it’s better for the environment, us, and the cow. It’s better for the cow because it’s more natural., When cows are fed grain it causes a more acidic environment in their stomachs, making them more disease susceptible, which in turn can lead to diseases. It’s also better for us because it contains more vitamins and fatty acids like Omega 3s and CLA .It also contains fewer  calories than the same portion of grain fed meat.

Sound like a win-win? Not altogether, in multiple blind taste tests grass-fed fell short. It’s also not reasonable to completely shift to grass-fed as a society, it take land we don’t have and twice the amount of time for a finished product for our growing population. There’s the facts, the choice is yours!

More info can be found here:
http://www.americangrassfed.org/
http://www.csuchico.edu/grassfedbeef/

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This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Conservation Aims to Preserve Bee Populations

By Adam Rine, Sustainable Plant Systems major

It is relatively easy to get so caught up in focusing on how a single process may impact the environment that we simply overlook how a combination of agricultural production practices can alter biological processes. One specific example is the drastic decline in honeybee populations across the nation. An article, written by John Schwartz, featured in The New York Times – Program Looks to Give Bees a Leg (or Six) Up – puts the current honeybee situation into perspective, highlighting the impacts production agriculturalists may face as a result.

Schwartz reports, “The cause of declining bee populations, both native and commercially raised bees, may be a result of a combination of factors including parasites, infections and insecticide use.”

In many cases, agriculturalists use insecticides to protect their crops from excess pest damage. These insecticide applications are not targeted to impact the bee populations but ultimately might. Schwartz includes information regarding the current actions that are being examined to compensate for negative effects of insecticide applications.

Schwartz reports that implementing ethical management practices such as including hedgerows rich in pollen to provide food sources and protective cover for bee populations may have a mutual benefit to bee populations and agriculturalists.

Many crops depend on bee pollination and bees depend on crops for pollen sources. Finding an acceptable balance between crop production and  the health of honeybee populations well-being will likely result in beneficial outcomes for both.

For more information refer to New York Times article (4/2/2012), which can be found at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/science/program-looks-to-give-bees-a-leg-up-or-six.html?_r=0.

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This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Green-Revolution Agriculture: Centralizing Wealth and Land for Over Fifty Years

by Brewster Frusher, BS Agriculture – Sustainable Plant Systems 2014

I want to have a small farm of my own: this month, I completed a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in sustainable agriculture; I have no aversion to rising before the sun and falling after it; I have had a job throughout my time in school and have farmed the last two summers. Despite my efforts, my dream of having my own farm seems more and more like a fantasy.

Like most humans, I was not born into a family with wealth or land. When I hear fellow students talk about their family’s 500, 1000, 2000 acres of soy and corn, I become frustrated. Not at them or their families necessarily, but at the system that has contributed to this centralization of wealth and land.

Like all expensive innovations, Green-Revolution technologies such as Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical inputs and the fuel needed to operate over large tracts of land, have centralized wealth and land holdings while further marginalizing the less fortunate. Those who have the money to adopt new technologies see greater profits and expand their land holdings to further increase production and wealth. Those not born into wealth are left out as land prices increase.

Green-revolution technologies incentivize large-scale monocultures and mechanization. These inherent characteristics of the Green Revolution leave our food supply vulnerable to both disease and increases in the price of energy, respectively. It is the dependency on a smaller number of farmers, crops and energy sources that necessitate a change in our food system.

Supporting smaller, local, more diversified farms will lead to an increasing number of smaller, local, more diversified farms, building a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable food system.  The article linked below examines some of these issues at the global scale.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/radical_un_report_promotes_democratic_control_of_food_20140320

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This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor