"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Real Cost per Acre of Grains vs. Meat

“I was told that we could feed many more people with the same amount of land if we all became vegetarians. I was swayed…until I realized that we’re talking about feeding people only corn and potatoes. The truth is that creating protein is expensive in terms of land use whether you’re growing soybeans or raising cattle…
What about if we instead raise our livestock on pasture and feed them food waste where appropriate? For cows, you won’t see much difference, but pigs and chickens really begin to shine once you return to a more traditional feeding system. Both of these animals are well adapted to foraging on scraps…
In societies that don’t depend on huge agricultural corporations to feed the masses, a family is likely to have a pig and a flock of chickens that they feed mostly or solely on waste from the farm and kitchen. Remember that adding some livestock to your diversified homestead also equates to manure to fertilize your veggies, and it’s suddenly hard for me to merit the idea of planting a field of soybeans instead.”

4 responses to “Real Cost per Acre of Grains vs. Meat

  1. Keoni Galt August 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Don’t forget that Cows (and other ruminants like sheep, bison and goats) all thrive on rocky, mountainous grasslands that are completely unsuitable for crop farming. The argument about land use is a red herring if you’re only focusing on the current practice of feedlots and the land used for raising grains to fatten the animals on the feedlots.

    Ruminants were designed/evolved to eat grass, not mono-culturally cropped grains.

  2. Anonymous age 70 August 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    This topic has long been discussed. I graduated from high school in 1960, and my specialty was agriculture. We actually studied the economic factors of farming.

    Method of raising animals for protein involves a number of parameters, including cost/value of land; cost/value of labor; cost/value of animal feed; cost/value of processing and transporting the animals to the consumers.

    In the US, where all is very expensive, the only effective way to feed millions is large scale operations, with intense use of space and minimal labor. Though that may change as cost/value of labor goes down.

    Even here in Mexico, a vast majority of protein meats are produced by large production operations. I can see at night miles away the lights of a large chicken farm.

    Yet, many poor families do just as you say. A few animals with whatever they will eat that is cheap enough to use on them.

    An uncle has fighting roosters, and the hens roam around, getting much of their food from bugs and worms and things in the ground, but he also tosses them handfuls of cracked corn as a supplement. The point, though, is they do not eat most of the chickens, they will eat eggs they find.

    A cousin buys a small goat once in a while, and his kids take them on ropes to graze the natural plants on his land, which is several acres. So, for the goats, with a large lot, the cost of food is nearly zero, but the free labor of the young son who controls them.

    A young woman has 15 or more goats, and every afternoon, she accompanies them up the mountain to community grazing place. A goat may be worth one hundred dollars. A thousand dollars for a poor family with their own house is a major boon.

    A widow I know who is sent money from family in the US, has built a number of small cages on her small lot, and puts in chickens and turkeys. My wife says she buys some poultry food made of wheat for them. I have no idea if she can make any money or not, though like most poor folk she probably does not figure much for her labor as we would tend to do on the States.

  3. Eric Patton August 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I was part of a small project that tried to figure out how to lower the costs, it’s a hard fit. My experience with peramculture and hydroponics is pretty small, I could barely keep things alive on my first few runs without using soil. There’s a lot of details like monocultures versus polyculture yields. If you want to get serious you would have to talk to career farmers.

    Fish is a good potential alternative, but the feed for the fish is extremely important. I don’t know what the exact specifications are, but I know it can mean the difference between generating good Omega-3 fatty acids versus Omega-6 along with other bad stuff.

    Some of the more promising stuff has been developing recently, other than the GMOs, are aeroponics (actually kind of old) and soil film.

  4. August 8, 2012 at 4:24 am

    I’m experimenting with raising chickens. They’ll give eggs but it will take several years to recover the costs of the lumber for the coop and fencing vs. just buying eggs from the store.

    Most people who raise their own food live in dollar-a-day poverty and have to. I’m not optimistic about the costs of high-tech food raising (aquaponics, etc) vs. buying it. Mostly, it’s just an experiment and a form of resiliency against disruptions in food supply. In today’s interconnected world, most famines and food shortages happen for want of good governance more than anything.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: