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Photo: Fumi Mini Nakamura for Cornucopia Institute
What’s the Beef with Beef?
Beef has come under media fire in the past several years for being a major agricultural contributor to climate change. And it’s true: the way in which the vast majority of beef is produced—and the quantity consumed worldwide—spells disaster for carbon emissions and ecological health alike.
But instead of targeting beef—a nutrient-dense and, to many, culturally significant food—the conversation needs to interrogate how beef is produced, who and what is harmed by that production, and the significant potential of cattle to be our allies in the fight to slow (and even reverse) climate catastrophe.
We want to share two resources as jumping-off points for your own reflection. The first is an illustration called The Spectrum of Beef, by Fumi Mini Nakamura for The Cornucopia Institute. It provides a simple but powerful way to visualize the difference between a factory farm, industrial organic farm, and authentic organic farm.
We also recommend this excerpt from the book Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman. In it, she argues that the proliferation of fake meat products has distracted the nation from the true problem at hand: our disconnect from real farming.
And finally, if you’re looking for a deeper dive into the stories of our very own beef farmers, read this feature on G&T Farm (Richfield Springs, NY) and this article on Tilldale Farm (Hoosick Falls, NY). They’re also our featured farms for the month, so be sure to check out our Instagram throughout September for more original content.
If you’ve made it to this point and want to beef up your climate knowledge even more, we recommend the following podcast, film, and books that cover a wide array of topics, including but not limited to the food system.
- Anthology: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson
- Book: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Book: The Reindeer Chronicles: And Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth, Judith D. Schwartz
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