Meat is necessary for human living for several reasons. Even if you are a vegetarian, chicken eggs provide necessary nutrients which really can only be found in meat. Animals effectively keep farms and grazing land fertilized, disabling the need for synthetic fertilizer. All of this is poignant to the fact that animals are a sustainable source of food, and if not that, they are still a sustainable source of eco friendly and reliable fertilizer. What are the correct steps to take when evaluating the sustainability of meat and of a ranch? Even agriculture benefits heavily from animal fertilizer, so it seems to be best to raise meat for the manure benefits alone, if not also for food. How do you determine this and what are all the factors in play here?
First of all, an obvious factor is that an animal can either be raised for meat or for its manure capabilities, but it is quite a stretch of the imagination to attempt to implement a cycle where it accomplishes both tasks. At some point, a cow or chicken raised for meat will have to be slaughtered and then its manure producing capabilities are cut off. It makes more sense to pick one or the other and go with it.
Second, animals raised to produce manure still have to be fed, and grazing may not be available all year round, so grain and feed will have to be imported, which is both economically and ecologically expensive. It is of course best to have local feed available for your animals, but it is not always possible.
Thirdly, animals raised for meat also have to be fed, and this is usually imported from a great distance so while meat itself is sustainable, non-sustainable resources may be being used for production of this meat. Grass fed meat is becoming more and more popular, but industrially produced meat is still the majority of the beef and chicken on the market today.
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