May is Beef Month! This designation is particularly timely now that grilling season is in full swing—perfect for those kabobs, brats and of course, some favorites around our home — steaks and burgers. I’m drooling just thinking about a classic burger piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and ketchup! And, since the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® shows that nine in ten Iowans eat beef weekly, it’s also a good time to address a few myths about beef production, so we can all feel good about the summer grilling staple we love!
Myth #1: “Cattle are the biggest producers of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture as a whole (including all livestock) accounts for only 9 percent of total GHG emissions, with transportation and electricity contributing 56 percent. Cattle are ruminant animals, meaning they have four stomachs, which can create methane during their digestive process. But with today’s new research on nutrition and animal genetics, improvements continue to be made so cattle (ahem) belch or “pass” less methane.
Myth #2: “Raising cattle is bad for the environment.”
Here’s a ‘win-win’ for conservation: with one in four Iowa farmers now growing cover crops, did you know that cover crops not only stop erosion and nutrient loss, they also serve as good grazing ground for cattle? And these days, more Iowa farmers are raising cattle under roof, which has also helped some farmers better manage the use of water and feed. Some studies even show the carbon footprint of raising cattle has decreased by 16 percent from what it was in the late 1970s.
Myth #3: “Hormones in red meat are causing the early maturation of girls.”
Hormones occur naturally in all foods from plants to animals. For example, a 3-ounce serving of beef can contain 1 to 2 nanograms (equal to one-billionth of a gram) of estrogen, yet that pales in comparison to the 2,000 ng of estrogen in cabbage! Additionally, our bodies produce a fair amount of estrogen every day. A child produces 50,000 ng of estrogen per day, while a full-grown woman creates 480,000 ng.
Myth #4: “A plant-based diet is better for you.”
Meat proteins provide amino acids that our bodies cannot regenerate on their own as well as important nutrients and vitamins not found in plant-based diets. Of course we all need to eat more fruits and veggies, and that’s why Iowa State University’s Dr. Ruth MacDonald recommends a diet balanced with a variety of foods from vegetables, legumes AND meat and dairy.
So, this Memorial weekend, raise your fork and celebrate summer and Beef Month guilt-free, knowing the meat sizzling on your backyard grill not only provides your body good nutrition, it provides environmental benefits and economic opportunities to Iowa!
By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau’s public relations specialist.