A new documentary entitled, "Cowspiracy," paints the beef business in a very negative light, citing cattle as the sole reason we have sustainability issues on our planet. Ranchers will need to"beef" up on their beef production facts to help balance out the conversation about sustainability and animal agriculture.
I haven’t seen the documentary “Cowspiracy” yet, but after viewing the trailer and reading some of the publicity for it, I’m sure it won’t be one any cattle producer will enjoy watching. The trailer points to a dark “sustainability secret” which is the “one single industry destroying the planet more than any other.” According to the trailer, this industry is responsible for global warming, water shortages, methane emissions, species extinction, and the ocean dead zones. “Cowspiracy” places the blame on livestock production.
In the trailer, the creators insinuate they are taking a big personal risk, even endangering their lives, by making this film. In fact, they claim that the livestock industry is so nefarious, so powerful, that the major established environmental organizations are afraid to take it on. But the film’s creators don’t have any problem painting ranching as the world’s worst environmental villain in the first 10 seconds, and it only gets worse from there.
Of course, Cowspiracy just appears to be regurgitating the common myths the beef industry has worked hard to correct over the years. For example, the Cowspiracy website claims it takes 660 gals. of water to make one hamburger, or the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers.
However, according to Facts About Beef, “In reality, it takes 441 gals. of water to produce 1 lb. of boneless beef. Farmers and ranchers are committed to water conservation and have reduced the amount of water used to raise beef by 12% compared to 30 years ago. In comparison, 441 gals. of water is a fraction of what is used to produce other everyday items. It takes over 713 gals. of water to produce one cotton t-shirt; 39,090 gals. to manufacture a new car; and 36 million gals./day is leaked from the New York City water supply system.”
So if we really care about water conservation, we should stop wearing clothes, driving cars and using water altogether in our homes and businesses.
An inflated estimate of water use in beef production is just one of the myths being perpetuated by this film. It’s clear the film’s producers are anti-meat and anti-food animal. The documentary debuts this summer, and I’m sure it will make more than a few viewers feel guilty about consuming their beloved cheeseburger. That’s why it’s up to us to share the factual information about beef production and the environment.
Will you go view Cowspiracy? Do you think the documentary is something ranchers should worry about? How would you respond to being painted a villain by a couple of guys with a video camera? How can we show our consumers how the beef industry has decreased its use of natural resources while producing more beef? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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