Why do we eat meat?

  • Cattle graze on land where machines would struggle to cut grass. CAROLE SOULE / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Friday, March 02, 2018

‘Why do we eat meat?”

This a question I struggled with when I was a vegetarian. In the 1990s, I was sure it was wrong to eat beef. I hated the fact that cattle spent a great part of their lives in Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) and that those same animals received routine antibiotics and were implanted with growth hormones to grow faster just seemed wrong to me.

Older and wiser I now ask: “Why is it important that we eat meat?”

Since leaving my computer career and becoming a farmer, my perspective as well as my diet has changed. I now eat meat, but only meat that is locally raised, usually from my own farm. Picture a cow grazing on a hillside grabbing clumps of grass growing around a rock or the base of a tree. With its four legs, cattle can go where a tractor would fear to drive, where even a weed-whacker would struggle.

Did you know that most of the surface land on Earth is suitable only for grazing but not for crop production? That is certainly true in New England. We have more rocky hillsides than flat land for raising crops. Where do you think all those stone walls came from? They were built by farmers using teams of oxen and horses to drag rocks out of the fields. Anyone that suggests we should use grazing land to grow crops has not lived in New England.

It is true that cattle can graze where machines cannot go. And what do you think happens to all the water that cattle need to drink? Do they keep it in their bodies until they burst like a water balloon? No, the water they drink returns to the earth to add back minerals to the ground and help create more grass to eat.

Did you know that 80 percent of what a cow eats returns to the earth as fertilizer? This manure not only enriches the earth by building topsoil; it sequesters carbon and helps retain rainwater. Cattle are perfect machines. They not only produce their own fertilizer and eat grass that humans cannot eat, they increase the soil’s fertility and capacity to retain water as well as provide nutrition for humans.

So, why do I eat meat? Not just because of the delicious taste but because grass-fed, local meat makes a quality difference in our health, in our soil and in our community.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)