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Wisconsin has Beauty in the Beef

Sunny May days are made for grilling out, but the cherry (tomato) on top is that May is Beef Month! We have a lot to celebrate in Wisconsin with nearly 14,000 beef farms and almost 8,000 dairy herds that contribute to providing wholesome options.

Whether we are looking at nutrition, environmental stewardship, or economic impact, there are many reasons to admire the beauty of our beef industry. Let’s start with nutrition. I love a good steak on the grill. Regardless of what I choose as a side dish, that meal is a nutrient powerhouse. A 3 oz. serving of lean beef provides 10 nutrients including almost half of the daily value of protein. It can be hard to find that amount of quality per calorie content in other foods

So what’s the beef on environmental stewardship? I’ve heard a lot of questions lately about the impact of agriculture, and I saw the answers while touring Wisconsin farms with the Wisconsin Beef Council.

Almost 80 percent of the land used for beef cattle isn’t suitable for any other crops, so our farmers are making efficient, sustainable use of the land by grazing beef cattle. Cows are ruminant animals, which means they have a different stomach structure than we do. They have a stomach with four different compartments that can break down plants and forages that we as humans can’t eat. Whether they are grass or grain-finished, most of what cattle eat in their lives is grass.

Less than 10 percent of grain-finished cattle’s diet is actually grain. Grain-finished beef cows can turn one pound of feed protein from foods we can’t eat into almost 1.2 pounds of human-edible protein.

As we continue to learn more about the land and animals, our farmers are becoming more efficient and productive. According to the national Beef Checkoff program, compared to 1977, today’s beef farmers and ranchers produce the same amount of beef with 33 percent fewer cattle. That’s thanks to better animal health and welfare, improved nutrition, and advanced genetics. The improved efficiency means every pound of beef produced has a 16 percent lower carbon footprint and uses less natural resources. The Beef Checkoff program says U.S. Beef has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world at about 2 percent of the nation’s total.

Caring for the animals, protecting the land and providing a quality product is a team effort. Beef cattle contribute more than 35,000 jobs in the state and over $2.1 billion to Wisconsin’s economy, according to the Wisconsin Beef Council. Anyone can see them in action with agri-tourism opportunities such as farm to fork dinners and tours.

I find myself fortunate to have so many affordable options in the grocery store, but buying different cuts of beef can be overwhelming. The Wisconsin Beef Council has excellent resources and tips for selecting cuts, preparing meats and cooking to appropriate temperatures online. Before firing up the grill, take the chance to beef up your knowledge!

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