Whoops, I think I just ruffled the feathers of some locavores out there, but I think there is a point to that statement. And so does Brad Copenhaven when he wrote his opinion piece for the Collegiate Times.
I stumbled upon this piece through the College Aggies Online site and found it to be a thought-provoking read. The writer suggests that more efficient food production can be more sustainable.
Here is an excerpt explaining this point:
Take, for example, grass-finished beef. Today’s locavore activists (local-eating advocates) would have us all believe that a steer or heifer finished completely on local pasture is more environmentally sustainable and natural. Why? They claim that it takes less energy for the cattle to stay on pasture for their entire lives than it takes to grow and harvest corn to finish conventionally-raised cattle and that these cattle release large amounts of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
However, cattle finished entirely on grass have lower growth rates and take longer to get to maturity. Grazing animals have additional energy requirements and actually release more methane than those finished on a grain based diet. In another recent study, Capper found that on a pound-by-pound basis, each pound of beef produced today by conventional methods uses less feed, less land, less water and less fossil fuel energy than beef produced by methods used in the 1970s.
Also, locavores often cite a product’s food miles, or the distance it travels from its place of production to your plate, as a way to determine its sustainability. It seems to make sense that food produced closer to home results in less energy usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions because it doesn’t have to be transported hundreds or thousands of miles.
However, this type of thought fails to take into account the difference in energy usage between production methods. When the fact that conventional production typically uses less energy per unit produced is taken into account, the idea of “food miles” may not be the best measure for the sustainability of the food we eat.
There are still many issues, such as pesticide, fertilizer, antibiotic, growth hormone usage and food economic that deserve our attention.
I know there are people with opinions on both sides of the issue. It is hard to approach this subject with an open mind if you are involved with food production. In my opinion Agriculture Producers have no reason to be anything but sustainable in their practices. With good management skills, why would we be involved in production practices that would jeopardize tomorrow’s production?
What are your thoughts on the topic? Come on, I know you have an opinion, otherwise you would not have read this far.