Is There a Right or Wrong Way to Produce Sustainable Food?

Working as a cow nutritionist, I had the benefit of visiting hundreds of farms of all types and sizes and seeing with my own eyes all methods of farming – big, small, conventional, organic, and every combination in between.

Even though each farm I have visited is unique, they all have one important characteristic in common – sustainability is a top priority. Producing a sustainable supply of food is an ongoing mission in agriculture, not an endpoint. Farmers are continually improving how they care for animals and the land to make more food with fewer resources. Continual improvements on farms are part of everyday business.

Just as consumers have choices, farmers do as well, and there is no one-size-fits-all way to grow food. Through experience and continually learning and improving, farmers are the true experts on which tools, technology and management works best on their individual farms.

It’s amazing how much agriculture has changed and improved since my grandpa was farming 60 years ago. Today, diets for livestock on individual farms are balanced for more than 60 different nutrients. I say this often – cows eat better than most people!

According to this study, the U.S. dairy industry, through improvements in nutrition, genetics and overall animal care, produces 60 percent more milk than it did in 1944, using 16.4 million fewer cows. They also:

  • Use 65 percent less water
  • 78 percent less feed
  • 90 percent less land

In my mind, farmers are the people who define true sustainability. Not only have they been practicing it for years, but they are continually looking for ways they can get better. I encourage everyone to visit a modern farm because there are so many new and exciting improvements to see. Let me know if you’re interested – my passenger seat is always open.