Ryley Mappin, 14, of Byemoor was the junior winner in the Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition at the Calgary Stampede. He chose the topic: ‘Bust a myth in Canadian agriculture.’
“Oh give me a home, where the buffaloes roam, Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
There was a time when 50 million or more bison roamed the Earth and approximately 30 million were plains bison found in North America alone.
A new hide-tanning process in Europe during the industrial revolution resulted in a high demand for cowhides. The cattle population at that time, couldn’t meet the demand and Europeans turned their attention to the large herds of bison in North America. As Europeans trekked west and depopulated the vast herds of bison, cattle were imported to North America as food sources for fur-trading posts. Eventually cattle were used for draft power, dairy, meat and hides as North America was settled.
Like bison, cattle are ruminants that have the ability to convert plants into high-quality protein in the form of milk and meat.
Did you know that over 50 per cent of the energy in crops grown for human food cannot be consumed by humans? But it can be consumed by a ruminant.
Cattle have been instrumental in grazing marginal grasslands that would not be productive cropland, and they eat crops and crop byproducts that cannot be used as human food.
With their ability to graze and consume plants, cattle, like other ruminants, are the original plant-based protein.
Owning and raising cattle has always been a decent business. Yes, as we all know, it has its highs and lows, but lately the business of beef is under attack from special interest groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Hollywood movie stars, A&W’s marketing schemes, Memphis Meats, and our own Canada’s Food Guide.
Each one of these groups or businesses has picked an angle to attack beef production.
PETA says it’s cruel; Hollywood stars say red meat is dirty and cow farts are causing climate change; Memphis Meats wants a world without slaughter and is promoting “lab-grown meat”; and the fast-food industry is using catchphrases to make profits off of you for their antibiotic- and hormone-free burgers and meatless burgers that bleed beet juice!
If this wasn’t challenging enough for the beef industry, our government has now changed Canada’s Food Guide and recommends that our human intake of dairy and meat should be cut in half or more and we should be replacing that protein with plant-based proteins like beans.
Now call me crazy, but seven billion humans consuming beans might have some negative side-effects!
We are in an age of free choice and have a huge variety of choices at our fingertips for everything, including our food.
But with so many choices, do you actually know what you are eating?
The Beyond Meat burger has arrived and the company’s mission statement is to “positively impact human health, the environment and animal welfare.”
Does it? Will it?
This plant-based protein product might look similar to a real beef burger but it’s already come to light that these food choices are heavily processed.
In fact, some research is comparing the list of processed ingredients to those found in dog food, leaving one to question if these products are as healthy as they claim to be.
So why are people so obsessed with jumping on the bandwagon of not eating meat?
Personally, I think it’s because they don’t know and understand the pros of eating meat and what the beef industry actually does for our environment.
I also feel that companies are vilifying one product over others to greedily gain market share. It seems people are easily hijacked to believe almost anything via social media these days. There’s a huge amount of misinformation being spread and humans are literally eating it up.
So what can we do?
I personally think we need to promote how cattle are positive for the environment and stress the benefits of eating beef.
We need to let people know that raising cattle is a good thing and not bad. We need people to know that cattle largely consume grass and forages. In Canada, only 30 per cent of our native grasslands remain and grazing cattle on these lands keeps our Prairie grasslands healthy and productive. By grazing cattle where bison once roamed, we are also protecting wildlife habitat and water sources.
This is not the case with highly processed plant-based foods.
People also need to know that eating meat is healthy.
Did you know that it has been clinically proven that meat is one of the most important factors for child brain development and lean beef supplies 14 essential nutrients? It is an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.
The Canadian beef industry is really trying to stress that beef belongs and as cattle producers, we need to do the same.
After all, cattle are ruminants and ruminants are the original plant-based protein.
So follow that Canada’s Food Guide, increase your plant-based protein and eat beef.
“Oh give me a home, where the cattle now roam, Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where a steak sizzles on the BBQ and your plant-based protein quota is reached for the day!”