Isn’t it ironic

By Garth McClintock

Alanis Morissette, a successful singer/song writer is your typical born and raised Canadian artist who had to go stateside to make it big. Why I mention her at all is because of two different positive news stories (one new, one older) about beef that reminded me of a Morissette song called, Ironic.  

So it went, there was a research project looking at ways to reduce methane gas emissions from beef cattle. Researchers at the University of Manitoba and Ag Canada discovered that feeding cattle grain instead of grass and other forages while being fattened, resulted in a 15% reduction in methane emissions and a 16% reduction in nitrous dioxide output. Tim McAllister with Ag Canada said, “A lot of our efficiencies in Canada have to do with the use of grain in feedlot diets. They get more energy from it and less digestive problems.”  Score one for the environment and grain usurping grass fed beef.

Not so fast, because not that long ago we were reading other and equally good news reports about the health benefits of grass fed beef. Key findings were that, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA found in ruminants was said to be a super health benefit for us. In fact some research pointed out that grass fed meat produced 300-500% more CLA than cattle fed the usual diet of hay, silage, and grain. It should be said, that the claims are pretty much based on animal research versus human. Curiously, this detail [not being conclusive] didn’t stop vitamin and supplement manufacturers introducing CLA products/pills to market. Given the super health conscious market place we live in today it’s understandable.  Score one for the health benefits of grass fed beef.

So between the two finding we have irony to some degree. Now about Morissette’s song that came to mind. A sample of the verses go like this. It’s like a traffic jam when you’re already late. A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break. A death row pardon two minutes too late. It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid, and it goes on. I thought this was fitting given we have both beef stories having a positive outcome yet vary in the process. All the while leaving the consumer with choices, is air quality or health the motivating factor? Certainly grass fed beef has increased in popularity because I’m sure of perceived health benefits but then, consumers probably don’t know they are contributing to poorer air quality. That is of course, if the science of measurement is clearly that accurate. Ironic isn’t it?

What do the people of Tristan De Cunha think about this question of grass fed beef versus grain fed beef? My money says they’d go with grass fed and one way to find out is to apply for a very unique job posting/opportunity on this tiny island off the coast of South Africa. Yes,an island that’s said to be one of the world’s most remote, can only be accessed by plane from South Africa. Caveat, there are only nine flights a year to the island. There are 265 residents and there’s a pub there, too. The locals as penned in the job description are looking for a teacher that would assist them in reducing the island’s dependence on imported food. The job advert states: ‘‘The island has approximately 1,000 acres of poor grazing land for 300 cattle and 500 sheep. The community produces potatoes in family-run allotments, but intends to harvest fruits, vegetables and other crops to reduce its reliance on imported foodstuffs.”

With only a few hundred head of livestock and small parcels of productive land this job would be challenging I suspect but with many perks. Not the least of which might be having enough time to sit down, have a beverage or two and pen some song lyrics. Maybe something like...It’s like bovine research when the world’s gone vegan. It’s like fighting against carbon emissions when the world’s gone electric...Isn’t it ironic.