On certified organic farms, beef cattle, dairy cattle and swine are rotated on fields planted with cover crops. The animals’ manure droppings help build nutrients for row crops in succeeding rotations. Beef cattle raised in this model are pasture raised and finished for slaughter on site. What is critical to understand is that there is no aspect of the model that overpowers the environment. The cover crops are putting much-needed nutrients back into the ground. The nitrogen and other ingredients from the cows’ manure helps the ground become biologically alive and enriched with insects, microbes, and worms. The cows’ manure does not overpower the pasture but rather enriches it. In this way, the crops, the ground, and the cattle live in an environmental harmony, each enriching the other and making our food more healthy.
In the industrial feedlot model, where animals are segregated in crowded, inhumane areas that are often paved in order to make manure collection by backhoe more efficient, the intensive presence of so many cattle in one location overpowers the environment and creates a toxic situation. Animals are pumped unnaturally with hormones and also inoculated heavily with antibiotics because their environment is so unhealthy it is necessary to medicate them to keep them from getting sick and dying.
What is critically missing from the industrial feedlot model is the well-balanced ecology of the organic farming model. In the industrial feedlot, the manure is collected in massive amounts, and the feedlot operator tries to dispose of it in the least harmful and most economical way possible. Unfortunately, the feedlot waste releases harmful gasses such as methane, hydrogen sulfite, and ammonia. The EPA estimates that as much as 85% of the total manmade ammonia volatilization in the US comes from animal agriculture. Airborne ammonia contributes to haze and poses serious health threats to human beings, including respiratory distress, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and even death. The EPA thinks that ammonia emissions from feedlots in the Midwest may be the cause of the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, the antibiotics that the animals are being bombed with end up in the meat that we eat, making us eventually resistant to the efficacy of those antibiotics. What is worse is that we are creating a culture of antibiotic resistant bacteria that our medical practitioners are finding hard to combat. Texas Tech researchers found antibiotic resistant bacteria in particulate matter downwind from feedlots in Texas. Because of the dry, windy conditions in other states, they projected that Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado all suffer from the same problem.
These feedlots also create pollution when there is runoff from the manure mountains. In 2007, scientists at North Carolina State found that “generally accepted livestock waste management practices do not adequately or effectively protect water resources from contamination with excessive nutrients, microbial pathogens, and pharmaceuticals present in the waste.” Excessive nutrient runoff has contributed to water eutrophication – (an excessive concentration of nutrients) – in western Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Given the known pollution and soil degradation, the health threats and the high use of limited resources that are inherently part of the feedlot system, it is clear that this production model harms the environment and demands reform.
At Profeta Farms, we practice regenerative farming – an approach to food and farming systems that regenerates topsoil and increases biodiversity now and long into the future. The way we graze our livestock, and the manner in which we carefully plan our agricultural cycles reduces waste to almost zero, enhances the ecosystem, increases soil resilience and strengthens the health and vitality of our farm naturally, and without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
I invite you to visit our farm and to learn more about humane beef production and regenerative agriculture.
Paul V. Profeta co-founded Profeta Farms with his wife, certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, Joanne Malino and organic farmer John Place. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Paul created a very successful real estate investment company. Concomitantly, he taught and published at Harvard Business School, created the Real Estate Investment Department at Columbia Business School, and most recently endowed the Chaired Professorship of Real Estate at Rutgers Business School resulting in the creation of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. As a successful athlete in high school and college, Profeta was always interested in health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. Eventually, he decided that America has to change the way it feeds itself. Industrialized food processors shipping food across the country creating a large carbon footprint and offering “food products” with known contaminants and questionable ingredients was not the answer. He has created Profeta Farms, LLC as a template for the way America should feed itself… local, sustainable, certified organic farms featuring integrity and transparency, using the environment in a sustainable and responsible fashion while treating animals humanely so that local shoppers can “know their farmer” and personally check on the farmers methods and ingredients.