When I was a kid, I ate a lot of food (beef was a large percentage of said diet). In addition to eating as much as a cow, I also wasn’t very picky about what I ate. This lead to the moniker “human garbage disposal” at several family gatherings, which was a title I wore with honor.
So when I read this article from the Angus Journal about a new feed source for cattle, it dawned on me I was more like beef cattle than I thought, because they also can eat a wide variety of products. Most importantly, they have the ability to eat plant sources that are indigestible to the vast majority of livestock and people. You could call them the barnyard garbage disposal! Keep in mind that the vast majority of the beef animal’s diet in the United States and Canada consists of grasses. These are either grazed (during spring, summer, and fall) or fed as hay (in the winter when snow covers the grass). Considering that nearly half of the land in the United States is unsuitable for farming, it means that cattle are creating food from land that could otherwise never been utilized.
However, cattle cannot get 100% of their nutritional needs from grass alone, just like I unfortunately cannot get 100% of my nutritional needs from ice cream. Therefore they are fed other sources of feed to meet their requirements. In particular, additional protein is needed in the diet. Once again, cattle can safely eat all kinds of things to get their needed protein. The Angus Journal article I mentioned before talked about how cattle can eat the algae extract leftover from making biodiesel for a protein source, which I personally would have no desire to consume but cattle seem to enjoy. They can also convert non-protein sources of nitrogen into usable protein by using their rumen (the largest part of their stomach), which in turn can be utilized by us when eating beef. All these products would’ve become waste, simply filling a landfill somewhere, if it were not for cattle that consuming them to make the protein that we need to survive.
So the next time you use your garbage disposal, you can remember me and beef cattle. We’re both out here, eliminating wasted food. The difference is that now that I’m no longer a “growing boy”, I should probably not work so hard at earning that title. -Jake