I'm often asked how I can reconcile eating animals that I raise, love and respect so much. It may seem like a dilemma but I have two answers:
The really short answer: I honor their place in the life cycle. They are givers of life and we owe them respect. They are not cute pets.
The longer answer: I have a belief that was built from six years of reading, discovering and trial. While inspired by many others' work, it is not from their work or experience that I make my choices. It is six years of deeply committing to a problem I wanted to understand and solve for myself and perhaps inspire others to look into. In other words, I have an opinion that has merit. I have done and continue to do the work.
Here is my answer (take it or leave it): We are all part of the life cycle. Without the detailed science….we die and our bodies become part of the soil. Microbial life eats the decaying matter of anything that dies like insects, elephants, plants, trees, birds and (humans should be wrapped in paper and put into the ground, especially areas where the soil lacks microbial life) all other matter that was living. Microbial life then poops out food for grasses and plants.
Grasses and plants (trees etc), take up nutrition from the microbial life poop. They use the poop for energy to assist in the photosynthesis process. Remember Photosynthesis? Taking CO2 out of the air, breaking it up into carbohydrates to feed the plant and putting unused carbon down into their roots.
Now the grazing animal comes along and does two things:
1. Bites off the top of the grass. This signals the grass to grow back causing more photosynthesizing and puts more carbon into the ground. The length bitten from the top of the grass is the same amount that will die off on its root.
2. The grazing animal poops which in turn feeds microbial life.
Microbial life ingest the poop AND they also ingest carbon from the plant roots that died (they are drawn to the roots by sugars the roots put out).
The life cycle has life cycles inside itself.
Conventional agriculture disrupts these life cycles by taking the animals out of the field and putting them into feedlots, barns or pens. This starves the microbial life, grasses and plants and slows down CO2 being taken out of the atmosphere.
There is more than enough land to sustainably raise chickens, cattle, goats, pigs and turkeys while building microbial life to grow more grasses. No need to grow animal grains, they don’t need it. The land in the middle of the country (Iowa, etc.) could be used for organic vegetables.
The notion that we can’t keep up with demand has time and time again been shown to be false.
The notion that we are physically built to be vegetarians is one I believe to be false (I did the work).
However, I would be a vegetarian if only conventional meat were available. I believe conventional food systems to be an uncontained disaster to our environment, health and longevity on the planet. We pay for that system though the farm bill (our taxes at work) every time we buy any food that is not grown or raised healthy.
So I believe the question should be different…
Question: ”How can we as a society be so arrogant as to believe that we can change the life cycles of millions of years of creation and not have dire consequences?”
Answer: Willful Ignorance.
Your ‘PhD in Poop’ Farmer,