Many people think that to help feed the world, land used for grazing cattle should be converted into growing crops such as soybeans. But the fact is, Australia’s unique geological, topographic and climatic factors mean that only a tiny portion of the continent is suitable for growing crops. Using this land for livestock, on the other hand, means we’re able to produce high-quality protein, along with plenty of other useful products.
In Australia, only a very small percentage of agricultural land is suitable for growing crops (just 3%!). Much of the continent consists of semi-arid areas and extensive rangelands – non-arable land that doesn’t suit crops. What it is suitable for, however, is growing grass – inedible by humans, but ideal for livestock . In fact, around 86% of plant materials fed to livestock globally are lower value by-products that do not meet human consumption standards.
Fortunately, cattle, sheep and goats are the great ‘upcyclers’, which means they turn grass and other plants with low nutrient value to humans into high quality protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that we can digest. At the same time, their grazing stimulates more plant growth, which leads to the absorption of carbon dioxide from the air, turning it into carbon in plants and soil. Learn more about the biogenic carbon cycle.
Meat, milk and leather are the products most commonly associated with Aussie cows. But did you know that we also produce glass, medicines, adhesives and even air filters from cattle? Almost every part of the animal can be used in some way, which is why raising cattle is such a productive use of non-arable land.
"For our land here, the best thing we can be doing is raising beef and lamb."
The Australian red meat industry is dedicated to reducing its waste, and has a set a long-term goal of zero waste discharge. Zero waste revolves around redirecting waste towards recycling, beneficial re-use or new value-add by-product streams.
The Australian red meat industry is investing in research and development aimed at helping red meat producers adopt viable renewable energy.
How livestock makes the best use of available land in Australia.