Livestock Production Supports SD Economy, Offers Nutriton to Families

Posted: 10/5/2009

Posted By: Steve Dick


The article "Meatless Mondays promote less meat" in the Sept. 23 issue of the Argus Leader highlights the range of options that today's consumers have in building a nutritious and cost-effective diet.  However, it misses several key points that meat and livestock production play in a healthy, economical diet, protecting the environment, and boosting South Dakota's economy. 

Countless research studies have shown the value of lean, nutrient-rich meat products in a healthy diet.  Beef is a source of 10 essential nutrients and 29 cuts of beef have less than 10g of total fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving.  Pork is also a tremendous source of vitamins and minerals and eight cuts meet the USDA's standards for "lean."  Both beef and pork are a great value for a family's source of protein.

More than 31,000 South Dakota farm and ranch families work every day to produce beef, pork, dairy, or poultry products, or the crops to feed those animals.  In many cases, these families have lived and worked on the same land for generations, and are dedicated to protecting the land, water and air that they live on, drink and breathe.  Modern livestock production systems are efficient and focused on providing top quality care for the cattle, pigs or chickens being raised.  

Animal agriculture is often the target of accusations of high methane and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; however, the reality is very different.  According to a 2006 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), confined animal agriculture in the U.S. was directly responsible for only about 2.5 percent of the country's total GHG emissions.  In contrast, fossil fuel combustion contributes about 80 percent of total GHG emissions.

Methane emissions in the United States are on the decline.  According to the EPA, overall U.S. methane levels declined 5.1 percent from 1990 to 2007.  In addition, methane from livestock accounts for only 2.6 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions.  

Today's farmers and ranchers are stepping up to the challenge of feeding a growing world population while minimizing their impact on the environment.  All of animal agriculture's GHG emissions from 1990 to 2005 have remained nearly constant, increasing by only about 3.5 percent since 1990.  However, while over the same period, total US red meat and poultry production has increased 40 percent, milk production has increased almost 20 percent, and egg production has increased about 32 percent. 

Finally, keeping meat on South Dakota's dinner plates also supports South Dakota's economy.  According to an analysis by South Dakota State University, the total economic impact of the state's agriculture sector is $21.3 billion and provides 173,101 jobs.  The economic impact from the nearly 12 million head of livestock in the state accounts for $5.7 billion to South Dakota's economy.  In addition, production agriculture contributes more than $645 million in tax revenues.  

On behalf of South Dakota's farm and ranch families, I encourage everyone to take a closer look at the facts of meat's nutritional benefits and the environmental protection measures taken by livestock farmers before publishing similar articles.


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