Opinions-Mature Grain Farmer-Scientist

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When we started Trappe Landing Farm I said to our contract farmer who was about to retire. “What is causing all this sediment to pour off the farm fields and into the Creek and what about fertilizer which people are saying is the primary source of water pollution.”? I was very uneducated about these issues at that time. I have thought many times since then about his reply. “We lost something when we got away from green grass farming” I have since learned that it was not just the switch to corn fed animals raised in CAFO’s but what evolved was an agriculture based on shortcuts in soil management and massive over application of chemicals. As farmers increased fertilizer application rates to increase yields they did not realize that corn has the lowest uptake efficiency of the cereal grains and that 2/3 of the nitrogen in good years was not being used by the crop and much less in draught years. They went to single year and two-year rotations, which have, live roots in the ground less than 32% of the time exacerbating erosion and sediment. Unlike other areas of the world they did not use winter cover crops to protect the soil. The CAFO concept was abused by overcrowding which created a perfect pathogen incubator and the need to use high dosage of antibiotics to keep animals alive and also introducing the ethical treatment issue. But perhaps more importantly corn fed animal products are high in saturated fat low in omega 3 and other elements found in grass fed products. While regulation of industrial farming is required to eliminate these abuses of the soil and the animals themselves, consumers can solve these issues with their food choices. The following is a comment we received from a PHD scientist with USDA who is very familiar with all these issues.
Dean Says:
May 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Reply
Certainly higher quality foods such as grass-fed meat products take more time to grow and produce, but Don is absolutely correct that they are worth the price – there is a physical and ethical benefit that comes from eating healthy foods, and a documented increased health factor in the pasture-raised animal that is translated into more complex and healthy tissue in the product that winds up on your plate. It’s called ecology. We should each take responsibility for ourselves, and reduce our meat costs by eating sustainable meats less frequently while avoiding unsustainable product. Yes they are cheap and easy, but in this day and age we don’t really need to respond to the evolutionary conditioning that makes us crave sugars, carbohydrates, and abundant protein sources. Eat less, but more healthy meat – make it a treat and enjoy it. And replace the protein on the non-meat days with plant products such as beans, vegetables, and soy products. We will all gain health by cutting poorly produced meats out of our diet. They are dangerous and not so tasty!

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