picture of cows in field

Ethical Meat vs Mass Agriculture

Jo Stewart

Ethical Meat vs Mass Agriculture 

Mass agriculture, or agribusiness, is the production of meat like beef, pork and chicken which is often done on a large scale to meet demand. 

Beef meat is one of the most popular livestock products in Australia, accounting for 22.8kg of beef per person per year-- which requires 15,400 litres of water per kilogram of beef to feed and water cattle. Cows raised for meat eat excess grain and produce 40% of the methane emissions, making cows one of the largest contributors to climate concerns. These concerns are complex and ever-changing; we can't explore it in all in one blog, but we can make a start. Learning about the impact of mass agriculture is the first step. Luckily, there are ways to continue to enjoy your favourite medium-rare steaks and sausages without feeling guilty for our swiss cheese ozone layer. Ethical beef production is possible when taking the right steps:


Grassfed not Grain fed

Cows bred in livestock farms for mass production of beef are most often fed grain. This grain feed is made from a base of soy or corn, sometimes supplemented by dry grass, but most often composed of calorie-heavy, nutrient-deficient grains used to fatten the cow up in time for slaughter. With the amount of cows needing to be fed in industrial agriculture, thousands of kilometres of field are used to grow grain. These thousands of kilometres use millions of litres of water and are maintained with the use of insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals. The environment suffers not only from the use of industrialised land, but the excessive use of water, the use of chemicals which get into our beef but also run off from the fields which end up in our waterways; oceans, dams, rivers.  Grassfed beef is reportedly better for the environment because the grass is a naturally occurring resource, and can house the cows and the feed in the same lot, rather than having to clear extra land to separate the food and the cows. Less water is required and, by supporting businesses like Sunshine Coast Organic Meats, free of chemicals. The grasses eaten by the cows contain all of the nutrients— like vitamins and minerals— from the Earth and don't overstuff the cows with empty calories.  Grassfed cows are better for the environment in the absence of chemicals, overuse of water and land; it’s better for us as the beef we eat is full of nutrients and void of chemicals. 

Ethanol and Methane Emissions  

 Cattle beef production in Australia occurs most commonly in Queensland, which houses seven of the ten largest reservoirs in Australia. New South Wales follows after, but is responsible for millions less heads of cattle than Queensland. With the nationwide popularity of beef, it’s no wonder beef travels thousands of kilometres to get onto your table: from farm to reservoir, to shelves and to your table. Mass production of agriculture that puts beef on supermarket shelves travels across the country and, sometimes, across the globe. Huge trucks like the ones you see transporting livestock release ethane emissions similar to cars and contribute to climate change.  The farm to table movement, or the benefit of small butchers like Sunshine Coast Organic Meats, is the cut down transportation time. Sunshine Coast Organic Meats ensures the meat travels no more than 5 hours from the shop, to ensure the meat is high quality and to reduce the emissions caused by travel.  

Hand in hand with lower production rates is minimised methane emissions. It is one of the most well-known consequences of agribusiness for the environment. Farms which raise a lower number of cattle consequently have lower levels of methane  and ethanol emission, reducing climate consequences. 


Food Waste


Beef is mass produced to keep up with the demand of the market, providing consumers with their favourite cuts of beef: namely, steaks and ribs. Mass agriculture fills the market by killing as many heads of cattle as possible to meet demand. These heads of cattle also contain less popular meat cuts like organ meats, meat around the neck, the legs and the head, of which are often thrown out or left on shelves.  Small butchers and farm-to-table businesses solve these problems by purchasing from smaller scale farms which raise smaller amounts of cattle and use all the meat available. 

Sunshine Coast Organic Meats are dedicated to reducing waste, whether by encouraging customers to try new meats or using scraps for their progeny company, Bella and Boots. Supporting small farmers by buying from local butchers, sharing your favourite shops and advocating for grassfed, organic meat allows these businesses to stay open. Grassfed, rather than grain fed, means you get the nutrient from the Earth and reduces water usage and land deforestation.  Reduced ethanol emissions from buying local, cutting out the middleman, protects the environment and supports small businesses.  Meat free of pesticides or other chemicals is healthier for you and our waterways. 

Buying from butchers like Sunshine Coast Organic Meats provides you with high-quality, nutrient rich meat, free of guilt.  Your butchers at Sunshine Coast Organic Meats can share more information with you about meat cuts, meat production and delicious meal ideas, like the beef stew featured on our recipe blog. Beef stew is a classic favourite, using nutritious, delicious beef chuck and harnessing the natural flavours of the meat. Every meal benefits from high quality meat and Sunshine Coast Organic Meats have made it their mission to provide you with just that