Saturday, December 19, 2009

Big Beef in New York??

Raising high quality beef in NY State is nothing new. There are many small but very high quality cattle producers that raise not just for beef but for genetics. A CIA graduate, Ami Goldstein and her husband Barry operate Brookefield Farm in eastern NY. They raise some of the finest Angus genetics in the country and many of their breeding stock get shipped out of state to rear the next generation of feedlot Angus in the Midwest. But what if they didn't have to travel that far?
There is a proposed large scale beef feedlot and processing plant to be located in Oswego County, NY. The proposed project wouldn't be your standard operation that are found in the mid-west; instead it would be a state of the art facility with the goal of minimizing its environmental impact. Included in this project would be a large ethanol plant, feedlot, processing plant and its location positons it within a market of over 50 million people. The closer proximity to a large population and having a water port further reduces impact by reducing shipping cost and emmissions. The feed operation would handle about 72,000 head of cattle making it the largest feedlot east of the Mississippi. Bion Environmental Technologies is the company that developed the plan and has won preliminary approvals from the local town board near Syracuse. Bion is an innovator in technology that deals with feedlot waste. Bion has proven plans that eliminate waste water runoff and reduce ammonia emmisions while creating ethanol

Like it or not feedlots are part of beef raising today. This project will provide a huge benefit to local dairy farms that can diversify with beef production. It would also supply beef to the northeast at a more regional level and provide about 600 jobs.

Many chefs concerned about the environment are considering alternatives to feedlot beef such as grassfed. They often put on the menus terms like "local" or "sustainably raised". The question is will beef produced in this feedlot be considered local? And with the new technologies this plant could be considered sustainable. These are the terms that each chef must define for themselves. What is local? What is sustainable? In my position as an instructor it is my job not to make those decisions but simply to inform. Personally I can see two sides to this coin. The good part is this project will result in a state of the art facility that will have a reduced environmental impact. The downside is the fact that feedlot beef can require a lot of corn and supplements that might negate the positives. One thing is for sure, whether its grass fed or feedlot finished, upstate New York and its neighboring states, will be producing more beef in the future and we have the genetics and the farmland.