Heritage meat statistics

OK, it was a short day looking at heritage and heirloom links, so maybe I'll keep this going tomorrow, since I didn't really have time to dive into veggies at all really, nor enough time to dig into the meat (ha ha ha) of this issue. For those wondering what the big deal is, or why diversity matters, I'll leave you with this information from Sustainable Table:

In the US, a few main breeds dominate the livestock industry:

  • 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.
  • 60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.
  • 75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.
  • Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.

More sobering information: "Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct. In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct."

4 thoughts on “Heritage meat statistics

  1. You have to wonder if the lack of diversity in available food hurts our nutritional variety. Or is all beef created equal?

  2. It probably does. Heritage farmers practice humane farming, letting animals range freely and live off the land as much as possible. And studies have shown grass-fed beef has more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids than corn-fed beef. And free-range chickens also have higher amounts of omega-3s.
    When it comes to vegetables, it’s probably similar. If you limit yourself to iceberg lettuce, you’re not going to get the same amount of nutrition as if you eat a medley of greens, including wild greens like dandelion, which have lots of vitamin C.

  3. As far as breeds go, what does it matter if a breed ceases to exist?
    A breed is not a species, but rather a group of identifying characteristics. In fact, a breed is the result of artificial human intervention in the normal breeding process. This is the idea behind “hybrid vigor” as most breeds are weaker in general health. Truthfully, if you’re interested in healthy animals, we should just not have any breeds at all, but this would result in less tasty meat, less nutritious meat, less appealing wools, etc. etc.
    We would not have breeds if it were not for the desire of farmers / ranchers to create consistent characteristics to maximize returns on their hard work. This is the same for heirloom breeds. The people who sell products from heirloom breeds are capitalizing on a powerful consumer trend: the desire for natural, wholesome food, and even a touch of ‘the good old days’. If people want food that has more Omega-3’s, vitamins, etc. the providers will be rewarded in the marketplace with more business. Unfortunately, most people judge their meats and produce based on taste rather than health and in the United States we are guilty of disliking foods that have a stronger more vigorous taste.
    I am personally interested in heirloom products more from a historical point of view. To me it is the remnant of a simpler, more rough time when people scratched what they could from the land and spent their time developing their local breeds and varietals.

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