Beef Group Fights Against Disease, Vegans & Other Meats


Courtney Love, Special Sections Editor, Lancaster Farming (PA) 

Feb 8, 2019


LANCASTER, Pa. — Beef farmers have complaints from trade to environmental regulations, but perhaps their biggest challenge is consumers’ food preferences.


Those opinions include skepticism of all animal agriculture to enthusiasm to meats that aren’t beef.


Americans are eating the same amount of beef as they did in 1909, but they’re also consuming 500 percent more chicken, said Sara Plate, director of sustainable beef production research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


Plate spoke during the 50th Lancaster County Cattle Feeders Day on Feb. 5 at the Farm and Home Center.


Plate argued that swine and poultry are benefiting from a perception that smaller is better, though chicken and pork are also generally cheaper than beef.


Pigs and chickens also need high quality protein, like humans do, which takes away from human food supply, Plate said.


Cattle, meanwhile, can perform well on forage crops that humans don’t eat and that grow on land that is unsuitable for row cropping.


Converting people en masse to a no-meat diet — what Plate presented as a sort of vegan agenda — would not necessarily be better for everyone, she said.


Critics of animal agriculture often paint a post-meat world as a place where all livestock live in a sanctuary, but it’s more likely herds would have to be drastically downsized to reduce human competition for acreage.


“We would need to throw one giant barbecue before we go vegan,” Plate said.


Dependence on artificial fertilizers would also increase because of the increase in field cropping and, presumably, the diminishing availability of manure.


Plate encouraged cattle producers to take time to explain to producers that cattle actually help the environment by disposing of crop byproducts that humans don’t eat.


“Beef is the original plant-based meat,” she declared.


The beef group also sees a more sinister threat to cattle production — foot-and-mouth disease.


The Department of Homeland Security has said that terrorist organizations have access to the devastating virus, so “we believe it’s a matter of when, not if,” the disease could appear in the United States, said Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


The Farm Bill provided for the creation of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank, something cattle producers have long sought.


Several members of the cattlemen’s organization said they unimpressed with government efforts to keep out livestock diseases during the government shutdown…