meat vs vegan efficiency

Let me get this straight – all the facilities you have ever seen or heard of DO use grain? Then you can be my cite.

That was a direct response to a similarly wild statement in the post I quoted. I was pointing out how silly it sounds.

i love this site, wish we could all sit around and sling all this bull over a few beers. i don’t eat a lot of beef but when i do i buy it from a fellow up the road who raises it on grass with no grain at all, it’s great stuff and he makes a good living at it. some things about texas are all right.

Every rancher I have even known raised the cattle from birth through 1 to 2 month before slaughter on grass and only finished the cattle on grain. This was in eastern WA and OR where we have a lot of low value land not suitable for agriculture but useable as grazing land.

Sorry to burst your bubble but we do eat milking cows; they are a prized commodity to the fast food industry because of their high meat to fat ratio. You see, raising cattle is an integrated industry and cheap hamburgers are a byproduct of that industry as well as; steaks, milk, cheese, yogurt, leather goods, plywood glue, fire extinguisher foam, sutures, pet food, dry wall, asphalt, tires, soap, candles and many more products.

I know us wasteful 1st world countries can’t compare to the all-natural, nonpolluting, spiritual, in touch with nature, people of the 3rd would, but we do our best.

Oh and on your final point, vegetables also use fertilizers in production and gasoline for transportation.

Simon Fairly, in his opus “Meat a Benign Extravagance” completely refutes this.

And of course, cattle are a naturally-occurring animal life. In fact the aurochs (Bos primigenius) is considered by some to be the same species as Bos taurus or perhaps there are subspecies. In any case, modern day cattle are very closely related to a wild animal that used to occupy the same niche. True, In North America, that niche was occupied by the American bison (Bison bison), but we do raise bison for meat and in any case the two species are not that dis-similar. Oddly, in America today we have about the number of cattle = the number of bison that used to roam. **About. **

Cattle can be raised entirely upon graze and the waste from farming- such as corn stalks, etc.

It’s true that in Fairlie’s livestock permaculture, there would be less meat eaten. But he argues quite persuasively, with reams of evidence, that meat (and dairy) as part of the permaculture is actually more efficient that a 100% vegan farm world.

And of course, besides beef we also have pigs, which happily exist on edible garbage, goats, sheep and chickens. All part of a sustainable organic permaculture.

Blake is 100% correct when he sez *“If we could all eat a diet consisting primarily of pasture fed meat it would have massive advantages for conservation and biodiversity as well as health. *” But Simon Fairly disagrees with this “And just like vegetarian or organic diets, the problem is that it is impossible with current technology for most people to actually live on such diets.” Fairly thinks we can do it. His book is persuasive.

Hang on. The conversation went as follows:

Voluble: Many of the animals we eat consume plants we can’t digest so in a sense they act as conversion units to allow us to harvest energy from sources that would exist anyway but we would otherwise not be able to avail ourselves of.

Sailboat: Modern high-efficiency intensive meat production is totally reliant on growing grain to feed cattle.

Blake: I do not believe you Sailboat. I believe that all the beef animals we eat do indeed consume plants we can’t digest.

Sailboat: Yeah, they do eat grain.
Sailboat, nobody disputes that cattle eat grain. The point made was that the cattle we eat are consuming products that humans can not eat. >95% of the food that a steer eats is material that humans cannot eat.

So I ask once again, Where is your evidence that this is not correct. Where is your evidence that Modern high-efficiency intensive meat production is **totally **reliant on growing grain to feed cattle, rather than being reliant on it for only 5% of the food that the animals consume?
I’m calling bullshit on this one.

How was the original statement in any way wild. It seems perfectly accurate and unoriginal to me.


Let’s assume that meat, not just pasture fed, makes up 10% of the calorie intake of the typical human today. That means that to subsist on a primarily meat diet we would need to increase meat production at least 5-fold using just pasture. Realistically I imagine that beef makes up less than 2% of total calorie intake, and pasture fed less than 1%.

Does Simon explain how we could increase beef production by between 5 and 100-fold using just pasture production?

I didn’t respond to this question immediately because I didn’t want to get into one of those “yeah, well, but I know…” debates. But now that others have responded pretty much the way I would have, I’ll just throw in my two cents.

The (beef cattle) farmer I know best handles about five hundred head with himself, two of his sons, and an occasional hired hand (he hires folks on occasion to help with things like clearing brush). He lives in the mid-western US where land is relatively cheap (he once complained to me that you just couldn’t get land for $1000 an acre anymore - everybody wants $2000 or more). He and his fellow farmers think of themselves as typical cattlemen and would be stunned to hear that they’re a “rare curiosity”.

The other farmers I’m familiar with run smaller operations, but I’m not sure you can earn a living running less than a hundred head.

Let’s not get too silly here. I’m no vegan, but we can’t pretend like industrial beef production is some environmentally friendly industry that exists on marginal land. A lot of our beef comes from Brazil, raised on land that was just recently rainforest. Even in the developing world’s domestic food production, overgrazing is a major cause of desertification and ultimately famine. Meat production does produce negative environmental effects when demand gets higher than can be produced on existing marginal land.


All of this is equally true of any food you care to name.

So what is your point again?

Modern high-efficiency farming is made possible by grain – adding grain is the main way it differs from “letting them out into the pasture.” What you’re arguing is “the older less efficient way is still a subset of the high efficiency system,” and I’m arguing, “Yeah, but what distinguishes high-intensity cattle production is the addition of grain. Without that, we’re no longer talking about high-intensity cattle farming. Thus, totally reliant on = cannot happen without.”


No, that isn’t what anybody has been arguing.

What was said is that cattle are astoundingly efficient because they convert useless material into food free of charge. You disputed that by claiming that all cattle are totally dependent in grains. That is not true. >99% of all the food a cow eats is indigestible pasture material.

If your sole point was that feedlotting requires that the animals be fed, then yeah, that’s tautologically true. But so what? How does that in any way contradict what **Voluble **posted?

Exactly. A three year old steer spends 3 months eating grain. The other 2 years and 9 months were spent eating indigestible pasture material. So your claim that they are totally reliant on eating grain and never ever eat indigestible material is proven wrong.

Is there something wrong with you? I claimed that the modern process, which basically differs because it uses feedlotting, requires grain, which is indisputably true.

If you followed my link, you’d see that the steers on feedlots are killed after 15 months, not 3 years. And for 3-6 of those months, their diet is 70-90% corn. Taking the mean of those figures, for 4.5 months they’re fed 80% corn. 4.5/15 months of life = 30% of their lifespan. .30 lifespan * 80% corn = 24% of their total lifetime diet is corn. More on some feedlots.

That’s from a PBS investigation; Blake knows differently:

Oh, and while it’s true that some pastureland could only be used to grow “indigestible pasture material,” some of it could be used to grow food for humans; it’s not a given that all pastureland is useless for other kinds of agriculture, as you seem to be implying.

People, people, people. Maybe we should all calm down a bit.

At least here in the USA, it’s normal for pasture-fed cattle to spend a couple of months in a feedlot before being slaughtered. That’s because pasture-fed cattle have a low fat content (lower than that generally preferred by the US public) and a couple of months eating grain in a feedlot raises their fat content (and worth).

There’s nothing new about that - it’s a process that’s been around as long as I remember (I’m 63) and probably a lot longer than that.

Note that there’s nothing mandating that the feedlots be indoors. A couple of years ago I noticed that some of the fields in the midwest area I visit had these new, rectangular-shaped humps in the middle of them. From a distance it looked like someone was building foundations for new buldings - consistently, in the middle of nowhere. When I asked my farmer friends what those odd things were, I was told they were grain troughs and when it was time to fatten up the cattle they’d be filled with grain.

No it’s not. Nobody is cutting down rainforest to grow potatoes. Correct me I’m wrong, but I don’t think there are any standard food crops that are currently providing incentives to destroy rare and fragile eco-systems. The economics behind any given type of food are not exactly the same, and beef as it is produced now is causing some actual harm. This idea that “Oh yeah, wellt hat’s land that would have just gone idle anyway” is just not true.

Not saying you shouldn’t eat beef, but use your brain when you do,

Well, yes, many cattle who are raised for beef are indeed fattened by grain.

That feedlot adds about 10-20% of the weight of the beef, adding most of the fat.

However, that still leaves 80-90% of the cattle weight that doesn’t come from a feedlot. Next- the feed in the feedlot comes from several sources. The primary source is indeed ‘dent" or "feed’ corn, which is not a grain you eat as-is at the dinner table. But the other sources include non-human usable side products from soy, etc.
You can have “high-intensity cattle farming” without a feedlot, in fact that’s the way most other nations raise them. Us Americans just prefer a more tender fattier meat, thus the cattle are finished in a feedlot here. That is in no way nessesary.

If you have not read Simon Fairly’s “Meat a Benign Extravagance”, then honestly, you are not up to date here. He completely and exhaustively refutes all the myths about meat -raising, both by the vegans and by the various meat councils.

His book covers it completely and exaustively.
Note that he also includes pigs, dairly (which is now almost entirely pasture), sheep, goats (both grazed) and poultry. His figures are convincing and solid.

However, in no way does he suggest humans *subsist on a primarily meat diet *, in fact just the opposite. He suggest we eat less meat, all of which is either grazed or fed waste products.

Indeed there is. Soy is grown upon such cleared land, and of course rainforests are cleared for banannas, tea, coffee, cocoa, etc. Rainforest trees are also cut down for the wood they provide.

Ah, I see what the issue is. **Blake ** *“If we could all eat a diet consisting primarily of pasture fed meat it would have massive advantages for conservation and biodiversity as well as health. And just like vegetarian or organic diets, the problem is that it is impossible with current technology for most people to actually live on such diets.” *

What Fairly sez is that we could replace all our current grain-fed meat with grazed or agriculture waste fed meat. In other words, all our meat could be “pasture fed”. However, he does not suggest us eating more meat, just that the source of the meat changes.