Whittelsey's reporting on CAFO's (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) is absolutely correct. I would like to point out that there is a very viable alternative to these atrocities, and it is simply to raise animals as nature intended, on pasture. There is a growing movement, mostly among small livestock farmers, to raise their animals on grass. Grass-fed beef in particular is in great demand for its health benefits (higher Omega 3 and CLA content) as well as its inherent and significant environmental and animal welfare advantages. Furthermore, and fundamentally, ruminant animals such as cattle are not physiologically designed to eat corn--period, much less all the other junk stuffed into them in feedlots.
With regard to climate change/global warming, a well-managed grass-based cattle operation can be carbon nuetral or even carbon negative due to the significant carbon sequestration inherent in the respiration of plants--they "breathe in" carbon dioxide and "breathe out" oxygen. Further, grass-based systems use far less gasoline or diesel fuel than conventional farming practices, including CAFO's, and organic grass-based systems use no synthetic (petroleum based) fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.
Discussing the horrors of cattle raising in this country, Whittelsey appropriately writes, "the fact is all but a lucky few spend much of their lives in dismal feedlots where grass does not grow, getting fat on corn and other unspeakable byproducts." Those "lucky few" are those fortunate enough to be raised in grass-based systems.
I submit there is a perfect, natural way to have both burgers and biofuels. It is grass-based livestock production systems, especially organic ones, obviating the gnashing of teeth over both oil and "king corn." There are tens of millions if not billions of under-utilized grassland acres in this country. The cost of bringing these acres back into livestock production is minimal compared to what is spent just in government subsidies (taxpayer dollars) to grain farmers. The health, environmental and animal welfare benefits of these systems are priceless.
Cincinnatus, New York, USA
Aug 9 2008 - 9:10pm