I am going to explain this word from my point of view. Many things have led to my definition of it like the way I was raised, the environment or area of the country I have lived in, the places in the world I have traveled to, and most importantly the different ideas people have shared with me on how to live and think.
For some reason I have a huge desire to learn and develop knowledge and skill, then try to take this even higher. I feel the only way to do this is to is let your ego take you where you need to go, then overcome the ego to learn even more, and allow your skill to improve to the point your ego shows up again to start the whole process over again.
When you get satisfied and think you are as good as it gets, you are right.
To me this is really dangerous not only on a personal level, but also on the world level and industry level as well.
On the subject of the sustainability of beef, ego is playing a huge part. It has become us against them. The problem is there are not many of us and a whole bunch of them.
As I said before many things have influenced the way I feel and think. I am exposed to more opinions from all sides than most folks. The hard part is getting the facts and not opinions or wishes from both sides.
The place I grew up on in the Helena, Montana area is now a housing development around a golf course. There are many huge homes and paved streets. The golf course has a fancy clubhouse, restaurant, pro shop and a very large paved parking lot.
The shop, hog barns, and slaughter house are used for golf cart storage and to keep all the equipment it takes to operate a golf course stored or worked on. The corrals, feed lot and the fences are all gone. No animals or crops are raised on the place any longer. Just big expensive houses and a golf course.
I am sure many of the people that live and play on the place believe beef is bad for the environment. I beg to differ. It seems to me we were operating a sustainable operation. We grew hay and grain to feed the cattle and hogs. The manure from the cattle and the hogs was used to fertilize the soil. We rotated crops with alfalfa to put nitrogen back in the soil. We were a part of the community and provided a service with our slaughter house for folks to harvest their own food.
My grandfather’s place bordered the place with the golf course. We ended up buying the place. The creek that ran through the golf course came through our place as well. The plant life in it was so thick that you could hardly ride a horse through it and the flow really slowed. It was much different than before the golf course. We had real big trout in it before, but I think they have all disappeared.
With so many houses and sewers the ground water contamination was getting to be a concern. Most of the people had dogs and that was always a concern to have them chasing stock and I would sometimes see the cattle running. I think it was a fun pastime for some golfers to see if they could hit a cow with a golf ball. We also got a lot more traffic on foot and in cars. The golf course and subdivision really changed everything.
My definition of sustainable is this: Using something in a way that maintains or improves quality.
That’s it. Producing beef, pork, and growing crops on that land was sustainable. Not only for the land itself, but it was not hurting the surrounding area, and was creating protein for humans while improving the land.
Something had been grazing and putting manure and urine on that few hundred acres for thousands of years. Grazing had made it sustainable for all those years. From the way I see it, our farming and ranching enterprise was as good or maybe better than the previous use, and I am certain it was much better for this land than a housing development and a golf course. I guess I can see this because I was there. I am proud of the way it was taken care of by my family.
Mother Earth is what is important. We need to sustain her. I truly believe grazing animals must be a part of that. It’s not about the beef, it’s about what the cattle can do to improve and sustain the soil and water.
Big companies like Walmart and McDonald’s may not know what they want from those of us raising beef. The customer may be unreasonable in their desires. It may be a conspiracy theory by the United Nations. We may not be able to feed the world because of it, or one of the many other reasons I have or haven’t heard.
It’s really about figuring out what is right for everyone and then doing it. If the consumer doesn’t approve they will change their consuming habits. If the producer can’t make a profit long term they will change the production model or stop producing. The government can regulate us out of business, or subsidize to keep us in business, or stay out of it and let supply and demand control it.
I don’t care what you call it, but it has to be right for two reasons, first to be able maintain or improve soil and water in a profitable manner, and second to produce a product the consumer wants. That is sustainable beef.
The way I see it sustainable beef is the best term for it. If you have a better term, let’s hear it. I would really like to here what you have to say about this, and how you would label it.
Watch this YouTube video and it will show how I feel every time I go by the old place.
~ Curt Pate