Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Disheartened by Biden’s beef bashing

To the editor,

I was disheartened this week to hear more calls for large reduction in meat consumption to combat climate change. I believe this approach is mis-guided and is based more in politics than reputable science. As a rancher, I see every day the effects of climate change and recognize that the health of our environment is one of the most important issues we face. I have learned for agriculture to be sustainable we must always put back more than we take from the land. Any farmer or rancher who has been successful knows this and uses it as a guiding principle. While there is no single right answer, we work hard every day to learn and improve so we can continue raising food, preserve open space and protect our world. A large percentage of agricultural acres are nontillable, meaning they can’t be used to plant crops. In lieu of planting crops, they are typically utilized in their native form which mostly means grass grows there. When people think of ranchers they normally think of cows, fences and cowboys but in reality we are just grass farmers and cattle are the best way to harvest the grass and convert it into a nutrient dense sustainable food source. I believe that decisions we make about our diet are some of the most important and personal decisions we make. As a beef producer, I would never want to try and influence someone’s diet but would rather want consumers to have all the information to make a decision. Regardless of what we choose to put on our plates, at the production level most agricultural systems are highly integrated; cattle provide a natural source of fertilizer for crops, cattle can consume and upcycle waste food products that would otherwise go to a landfill, cattle eat crops that humans can’t that allow farmers to use crop rotations that improve soil health for things like soybeans. Several studies concur that livestock production represent about 3% of gross greenhouse gas emissions however none of these studies take into account the positive effects that livestock can have on soil health and carbon sequestration. My son will live in a world with a population over 10 billion and we must continue looking for innovative ways to sustainably feed our neighbors. We must not take viable, sustainable options off our plates. Agriculture, including livestock, is and must be part of the solution to the challenges that face our society.

JM Peck