Weighing the Grain and Water Required to Produce a Pound of Beef

Sad to say that it’s only mildly startling to take a look at the sheer quantity of the resources required to produce  one pound of beef…

What does it require to raise one pound of beef, then?  First, consider:  A 1,250 lbs cow requires a diet of at least 2,800 lbs of grain. (See Extension.org)

Second: Growing 2,800 lbs of grain (50 bushels at 56 lbs each bushel) requires 2,500 gallons of water per bushel, which tallies up to 125,000 gallons of water just for growing the necessary food required to feed the cow. (see Twilight Earth Ethanol)

Third: It is estimated (by author John Robbins) that a cow requires another 2,500 gallons of water in its’ lifetime.

That’s saying it requires at least 127,500 gallons of water to bring a calf to slaughter, to meat packing plant, to supermarket, to dinner plate…

So what’s the breakdown of  gallons of water per pound of beef?

Extension.org calculates that it requires 2.07 to 2.24 pounds of corn to produce each pound of beef, and by using the above calculations of bushel of grain to water required to grow it, means that it requires at least 100 gallons of water to grow one pound of beef.

A second question comes to mind, namely, how many people can you feed with 2,800 lbs. of grain?

According to Reason Magazine (see article here), “Four hundred and fifty pounds of corn supplies enough calories to feed a person for one year,” meaning eating 1-pound of beef requires the same amount of grain as you would need to feed at least 6 people, for a year– another staggering claim of statistics nearly impossible to really comprehend.

Considering all this to be even somewhat accurate, with what can you weigh the cost of eating beef?

This calculation doesn’t consider other ecological factors of factory farming like the tremendous dependency on fossil fuels; nitrous oxide omissions in the form of fertilizers to grow the grain, and pesticides used to protect the monoculture-grown crops.  Furthermore, this calculation omits consideration of factory farm’s methane gas emissions,  polluted waste water run-off into public water, and increased exposure to antibiotic-resistant food borne illnesses, like e. coli and salmonella…

As high of a cost as eating factory farm meat may have, the problem can’t be reduced to raising cows for beef– the problem is the way factory farms deplete ecological resources, pollute the environment, and so far, have generally disregarded the well-being of land, animals (including people) alike.

On a third, and completely new question, who can tell me more about restoring soils through ecological land management– an efficient cycle that harvests the sun to grow grass, which in turn, is harvested by the cows, and after, is deposited back to the Earth in the form of organic fertilizer (manure), which in turn, re-nourishes the grasses, which prevent erosion, and help the soil hold the rainfall long into the dry season.

A cow doesn’t ruin the Earth; a human mishandling animals and land ruins the Earth.  But on the flip-side: How do the sun, grasses, cows, manure, humans, water, and land form a solution that re-stores the temperate and generous climate on Earth ?

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