It’s time to stop making cows into scapegoats. Experts and citizens alike have long blamed beef consumption and cattle farming as major causes of environmental devastation, increased greenhouse gas emissions and poor consumer health. But in her book Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat, dietician and author Diana Rogers explains how science actually points to another conclusion: that sustainably raised cows and other ruminants could heal the Earth and improve our nutrition.
During her #HeiferTogether chat with Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari on August 7, Rogers discussed how livestock are key to regenerative farming and human nutrition. Watch the full conversation in the video above.
- Meat is a nutritional powerhouse and packs protein, iron and countless other nutrients into relatively small servings compared to other foods. "There is iron in spinach, but you would have to eat pounds and pounds and pounds of spinach to get the same amount of iron that you'd get in a small piece of steak," said Rogers.
- Pound-for-pound large ruminants are the most widely beneficial food source. Cattle, goats, buffalo and sheep provide critical nutrition for families around the world and can be raised on land that's unsuitable for crops. "From a land-use perspective ... there are so many places where only livestock can thrive," said Rogers. "As Americans ... we might assume that everywhere in the world can grow grains. But it's very important to understand that most of the agricultural land in the world is only suitable for grazing because it is either too rocky, too dry, too brittle, the soil is too poor or it's too hilly."
- In regions where farmers can't grow food crops, livestock are not only critical to the physical health of residents but to their financial health as well. Cows and other ruminants give families milk that they can consume and sell or make into products like butter and cheese. "There are also many places in the world were women can't own land but they can own livestock. And that's a very important thing, too," said Rogers. " Because when we improve the nutrition and financial status of women, the entire family can benefit from that."
- Importantly, for many people around the world, a plant-based or vegan diet simply isn't an option. A food system that includes livestock is a food system that feeds more people. "I think we need to consider the nutritional importance of animal products whether or not you chose to eat them and the environmental benefits - so many environmental benefits - that well-raised animals can have when we're talking about an ethical decision," said Rogers. "Because there are social justice implications and nutritional implications of looking at a food system that removes animal products."
Watch the full interview with Diana Rogers and all of our #HeiferTogether chats on the series site. Past speakers include food critic Ruth Reichl, activist and farmer Karen Washington, Soul Fire Farm cofounder Leah Penniman and more.