Steak Economics - A letter posted at the Corner gives an interesting take on the economics of ranching:
Contrary to general perception, cattle attain most of their weight not by being fed corn in a feedlot, but by grazing on ground which is, generally speaking, not arable (i.e. farmable). They are fed in feedlots only during their, shall we say, golden months. The industry works this way because it utilizes resources (range grass) that are renewable, cheap, and not otherwise useful. The feedlot part of the cycle illustrates the irony that faces cattlemen. Wholly grass fed beef is lean and nutritious. But what fat there is, is brownish in color and doesn't taste all that great. By contrast, corn fed beef shows nice white colored fat layers that look wholesome (but are no more so) to the shopper down at the Piggly Wiggly. Ultimately, the undeniable truth that screams from the marketplace is...people like the taste of fat! They say they want lean and healthy, but they absolutely don't. And they won't buy it.
Mmm... beef.

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