Beef: It (should be) what's for dinner
The reference in Andrea Appleton's review of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (HCN, 8/03/09) to the "soil erosion and desertification intensive grazing can cause" is technically and ecologically incorrect. Modern, progressive ranchers follow a management scheme called intensive grazing that results in increasing the organic content of the soil, increasing the plant cover, and the diversity of the plant and animal community while decreasing erosion. This is accomplished by controlling the cattle and monitoring the land.
Next, I would take issue with her implication of the obviously superior environmental benefits of "eating low on the food chain." Intensive grazing allows us to produce high-quality food for humans by capturing solar energy and converting it (via photosynthesis) into red meat. This is accomplished with no tillage, fertilizer, spray, irrigation or petroleum-burning equipment. Meat may in fact be higher on the food chain than veggies and rice, but I doubt many items in the organic produce aisle are grown with as little environmental impact as our beef.
If the public really wants to support agriculture that is low-impact and sustainable, perhaps they should go out and order a grass-fed steak.
John Marble, Heart Z Ranch