Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.
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Tuesday, March 6 2018 7:00 AM
By Anne Burkholder

Super Cow! How are cattle both recyclers and upcyclers?

I am a food waste nut. Perhaps it is spending twenty years on a farm and seeing first-hand the effort and resources that it takes to grow food, or perhaps it is simply that my grandmother taught me well when she shared stories of growing up during the Great Depression.

I try to minimize food waste because I believe that we all should honor our resources by being responsible eaters.

That personal belief dictates the way that I run my kitchen as well as how I manage resources on my farm. And, I am not alone. I have farmer and rancher colleagues all over the United States that share my passion for doing more with less.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently reported that 86% of what we feed to livestock is inedible to humans. In fact, the vast majority of the feed resources used to raise cattle come from:

Cattle aren't just recyclers! They are also upcyclers!

As recylcers, cattle make sure that leftovers are used instead of wasted.

As upcyclers, cattle upgrade inedible plants into a highly nutritious and protein rich food.

Both instances ensure that we do more with less. The best news is that United States farmers and ranchers outperform the global statistics! The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported last fall that human inedible forages and plant-derived leftovers provide more than 90% of what grain-finished beef cattle eat in their lifetime.

That’s a Super Cow!

And, that’s a great example of how creatively using resources and by-products allows farmers and ranchers to provide great tasting and nutritious beef while also reducing our total environmental footprint.

Why throw away something that can be recycled or upcycled through an awesome ruminant animal like a cow? Let’s take a minute to look at the life cycle of a Kansas calf and better understand what it eats. 

Over a total lifetime of approximately 17 months, 90% of his diet is a combination of grasses and other forages in addition to by-products such as wet distillers grains. Cattle are ruminant animals which allows them to uniquely digest feed not able to be eaten by humans (or other non-ruminant animals) and upcycle that into a variety of beef and other products that enrich our lives. One calf provides about 600# of boneless trimmed beef in addition to a variety of other non-food products made from cattle.

We are really excited to spend this month talking about the “Super Cow” and how the beef community works to both recycle and upcycle our resources in order to provide a great tasting and nutritious protein that can be enjoyed by all of our families.  Go Beef!



 A special thank you to the authors of the following resources used for a reference in this blog:





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Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.

Innovative Livestock Services

2006 Broadway Avenue
Great Bend, KS 67530

(620) 793-9200

4805 Vue du Lac
Manhattan, KS 66503

(785) 587-9700

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