Beef Cows

3 Myths About Sustainable Agriculture

Our freezer is always full of beef that we raised on our own cattle farm. I’m privileged to know exactly where our family’s food came from and how it was raised. I’d like everyone to feel that confidence in knowing the farmers behind their food. So I’d like to be a source of information when you have questions. I want to help dispel any misinformation and share my point of view. Let’s start by debunking a few myths I hear about agriculture and sustainability.


Myth #1: Today’s farms are less sustainable than they used to be.

Fact: Simply put, farmers today are doing more with less. Here are a few examples:

  • Compared to 1977, today’s beef farmers produce the same amount of beef with 33% fewer cattle.
  • Pig farms now use 75.9% less land than in 1960.
  • Over the last 40 years, soybean farmers have nearly doubled how much they grow while using 8% less energy.
  • Dairy farmers have reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 63% over the past 60 years.
  • Corn farmers have increased yields while reducing pesticide and fertilizer use, thanks in part to biotechnology.

Sustainable agriculture may look different on each farm, but the goal is always the same: make the farm better for tomorrow and for future generations while providing a safe, sustainable food supply.


Myth #2: Going meatless will solve climate change.   

Fact: A popular idea right now is that cutting meat, like beef, out of your diet is the best thing you can do for the planet. What you might not know is that U.S. beef producers are the global leader in sustainability. According to the USDA, greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle account for only 3.3% of emissions in the U.S.

By comparison, energy use like transportation and electricity generation makes up 56% of total emissions. In fact, a peer review of studies shows going vegetarian would only cut an individual’s CO2 emissions by 2%.

How we raise livestock continues to become more sustainable as technology advances, so we can keep providing an important, versatile protein for a growing world.


Myth #3: Farmers apply too many pesticides on their fields, which impacts water quality.

Fact: Today’s farmers use fewer pesticides than generations past, thanks to technology advancements:

  • Smarter crop protection tools – today’s chemicals are precise, effective and leave virtually no residue on the soil, water or crop.
  • Better with biotech – some GMO crops have been genetically engineered to fight off pests, so farmers don’t have to use as many chemicals.
  • More accuracy – instead of spraying entire fields for weeds and pests, farmers can use equipment and machinery with variable rate technology to spray precisely where needed.

As mindful as we are about what’s happening in our fields, we also care what happens around them. It’s why many farmers choose to use cover crops, reduce tillage and plant vegetation around nearby bodies of water – all to keep the soil healthy and where it belongs.

Alison McGrew

About Alison

Located in west central Illinois near Macomb, McGrew Cattle is run by my husband and I, in addition to our full-time jobs off of the farm. We decided to start raising cattle shortly after we got married in 2007 and have since expanded our herd to include 40 Simmental cows with an additional 30 cows that we manage for a close family friend.

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