Oct 252009
Authors: Guest columnist Kimberly Rossi

I would like to address this column to Mr. Stephens, the author of Thursday’s article, “Eat less meat to help save the world, environment.”

I am appalled that such an article was published in the newspaper of one of the top agricultural schools in the nation — an article that slams the beef industry and the agricultural industry with misunderstood facts and a lack of knowledge. I understand that this is an opinion-generated article, and I compliment you on exercising your right to freedom of speech — however, I challenge your publication on faulty prejudices on an industry that feeds you, clothes you and keeps you warm.

Mr. Stephens, I was born and raised on a family-owned and operated cattle ranch in Northwestern Colorado. Our lifestyle is one that is repeatedly misunderstood and attacked by outsiders who know little of the hard work and heart that goes into animal husbandry and agriculture in general.

For example, in December of 2003, the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as “Mad Cow Disease,” created a huge misunderstanding in the U.S. beef markets, even after the origin was traced to a different country and actions were taken to effectively prevent possible transmission. This was because American consumers misunderstood the true story behind BSE.

The examples I could give you about misconceptions the American consumer holds against the agricultural industry, which bring about negative and truly wrong connotations, are endless. I can now add your article to my list of examples.

Meat is an essential part of humans’ diets. Meat provides protein, energy, minerals and essential vitamins and fatty acids in an ideal proportion. If we switch to a vegetative diet, as your article suggests, we would need to consume more food in a wider variety to acquire the same nutritional balance meat provides. How can you say that beef, is “more dangerous to public health than Coke?”

A small, three ounce serving of beef not only provides a large amount of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron and niacin, but it supplies more than 10 percent of the daily value for these nutrients. In fact, this same three-ounce serving of beef will provide you with 112 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin B12 and more than half of your daily protein requirement. You may have found it a catchy introduction, but it is completely inaccurate and misleading.

As for the United Nations’ report on the beef industry, as accurate or inaccurate as it may be, let me tell you, the use of rangeland and forest land for agricultural purposes is not as horrible as you think.

I assume you would not understand that 90 percent of the land being used for animal agriculture can’t be used for other purposes. Not all of the agricultural land in this country can be used to grow crops.

Consider Colorado, for instance. Half of our state is mountainous rangeland that would have little use other than for cattle to graze. The cattle do contribute a lot more than you think. Cows are valuable because they convert grass and other abundant forages into high-quality food and by-products that humans can consume. They are natural tillers of the soil. They also act as natural groomers of the landscape, thereby reducing the risk of forest and grass fires. Cattle are modest in their consumption of grain, so your idea of feeding the grain fed to cattle to humans instead would not make much difference.

Cattle usually consume a diet of mostly hay, which couldn’t be used for human consumption anyway, and crop waste such as corn stalks, wheat straw, beet pulp and distiller’s grains.

Also, the beef industry is, in fact, the largest money-generating commodity in agriculture today, producing U.S. gross annual income of $50 billion. This is a huge contribution to the economy in an industry that supports more than 970,000 beef cattle operations nationally. I am extremely proud to be one in that number that feeds people including you.

With that, I will encourage you to become more knowledgeable about this very important and vital industry and to think twice when writing an article with inaccurate and misleading facts.

Kimberly Rossi is a freshman animal sciences major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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