What does feeding our protein source cost?

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 9:32 PM

Hello meat eaters!  Have you ever considered what protein sources go into your food?  Beef is a common protein source for much of the population, yet most people don’t think about what their food eats.  Part of the cost that we pay for our beef is translated through to the food sources that the farmers feed their cattle.  The cattle industry closely monitors the protein intake of their animals to output larger cattle, and produce more milk.  A general rule of thumb is at least 12 to 16% crude protein as part of their primary feeding forage.  This can be achieved through using high protein sources such as alfalfa, soybean, grazing of young pastures, or even supplements such as urea or other non-protein nitrogen sources.  The leading determinate of what protein source the cattle eat is simply what that source costs.  Protein is just as important for the cattle as it is for us.  A malnourished cow isn’t happy, doesn’t produce much milk, and produces low quality meat so their diet is every bit as important as ours is and that includes protein.
So what affects the feed cost for the cattle?  A big one right now is biofuel, specifically corn-ethanol especially because corn and soybean meal are the major feed components for dairy and beef production.  This is a big enough concern that many papers have been written by many experts on the implications of biofuels versus animal feed.  It is a simple question of where are the growers of the corn going to get the most for their corn.  If the answer is in the cattle industry, then we might see the cost of feed for the animals go down and with that the cost of meat and dairy will also drop.  If the answer is ethanol, then we can expect to see the cost of meat go up due to the rising cost of feed.  The question at the end of the day that we must ask as the consumer is which are we willing to pay more for, fuel or food? 


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