Call me crazy, but I drive over 70 miles to take the bulk of my garbage to a container.
We recycle what we can, and when we find ourselves in Bismarck, we take the garbage to the land fill’s public recycling containers. You are probably wondering why. Well, our small, rural town does not offer a recycling system, and I’d rather recycle what I can versus all our trash going to a land fill.
Most of us are familiar with the process of recycling; if not directly participating in the process than at least the concept is understood.
Cows recycle, too, in a way. But, the cattle on our ranch upcycle.
The cattle that graze on our pastures turn the natural resources of our land into beef and everyday products. Not only do our cows turn rangeland into protein, but by properly grazing the land, cattle actually improve rangeland and wildlife habitats.
Our cattle also eat things like distillers grains, beet pulp and potato peelings. In fact, about 90% of what cattle eat cannot even be digested by humans. Cattle can also eat things like pea pulp, cottonseed, rice bran, wheat middlings, and sunflower and soybean hulls. We even know of friends who, because of their proximity to the business, are able to feed bakery waste. Some cattle operations feed fruit and vegetable waste. Cattle use their ruminant digestive system to turn plants humans cannot eat or byproducts not fit for humans into a high-quality, nutrient-dense protein.
Distillers grain is a byproduct of ethanol production. If this high-quality feed wasn’t being fed to livestock, the byproduct would otherwise end up as waste in a landfill. In fact, for every 100 pounds of human food from crops, there are 37 pounds of plant leftovers produced, which cattle can then upcycle into protein, micronutrients and other important products. 1,2,3
This is notable as municipal solid waste landfills accounted for 14% of methane emission in the U.S. in 2017, the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S. 4,5
Cattle across the country are playing an integral role in feeding a growing population by producing more and more high-quality food for all of us with less and less natural resources.
1. Fadel, J.G. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 79: 255-268.
2. CAST. 1999. Animal agriculture and global food supply. Task force report No. 135, July 1999.
3. Rotz et al. 2019. Ag Systems. 169:1-13.
4. EPA. 2019. Inventory of U. S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2017. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D. C.
5. USDA. https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why