By: Clint Gladden, Saddle Mountain Dairy, Buckeye, Arizona
Continued concerns about climate change and the desire to protect our natural resources have people all over the globe looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. These important conversations often lead back to food production – something that, as an Arizona dairy farmer raising crops, beef and milk, I am very passionate about.
My family and I are proud of the role we play in providing high-quality beef and milk in the most sustainable way possible. The U.S. is the leader in sustainable beef and milk production due to the dedication of the entire beef and dairy industries, especially those like my family, who have been farming and raising dairy cattle in Arizona since the late 1930’s.
I am a fourth-generation farmer in Palo Verde, Arizona. In 1938, my great grandfather James Edward Gladden started a dairy farm with 12 Jersey cows in Chandler, Arizona. Over the years, we slowly moved west until we reached Palo Verde, where my wife Brooke and I currently farm and raise dairy with my parents (Danny and Sheri) and my brother and his wife (Josh and Heidi).
Sustainable practices are the heartbeat of our farm. We recycle all water and utilize the manure from the cows as fertilizer on the crops that we raise to feed our cows. The alfalfa, corn, sorghum and wheat that we grow all go to the dairy for cattle feed. Additionally, cattle are fantastic upcyclers – meaning, their ruminant digestive systems turn things that humans can’t eat, like grass, other forages, and byproducts, into beef and milk for human consumption. Examples of byproducts that our dairy’s nutritionist formulates into our cows’ diets are cotton seeds (from the production of cotton), almond hulls, spent distillers grains (from breweries and ethanol production), and bakery and produce waste (that might be expired or too “ugly” from grocery stores) and would otherwise be sent to a landfill. By upcycling these materials we add nutritional and environmental value, while cutting down on waste and producing high-quality protein for humans. These are common practices by farmers and ranchers across the country, making the most of the resources available where they raise cattle.
The reality is that farmers and ranchers, like us, make their living from the land and we want to do everything in our power to protect the environment. Preserving natural resources is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes our farm better and allows us to continue farming, year-after-year, generation-after-generation.
Contrary to widespread confusion and due to misrepresentation of U.S. beef production with global numbers, you’ve likely heard that U.S. livestock’s contribution to climate change is immense. Americans must understand that this is not true. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beef production in the U.S. is only responsible for 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Even when the production of animal feed, fuel and electricity necessary for beef production is factored into the equation, it is still responsible for just 3.7% of GHG in the United States.
The same is true for the dairy community: we are always working to have an even lower footprint. Thanks to increasingly modern and innovative dairy farming practices, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk significantly, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.
While caring for the environment and our natural resources, we are also producing high quality and nutritious beef and dairy products to feed a growing global population. Supplying 10 essential nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins, beef supports a healthy lifestyle with many delicious cuts, like Flank Steak, Flat Iron and Ground Beef, which are some of my favorites.
Likewise, the milk from our cows contains 13 essential nutrients including high-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D, that help build and repair muscle tissue, build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and help support a healthy immune system.
We love what we do and want future generations to have the same opportunities we have, therefore making our stewardship of the land and cattle a top priority. Every day we are working to improve our farm and dairy, in turn, benefiting us all. There is something so satisfying about seeing it all come full circle. From seeing newborn calves starting their journey, to a bare field turning into high quality cattle feed over a season, then the cattle enjoying that feed, ending with getting to see milk tankers and cattle trucks leaving the farm headed for a grocery store near you with high quality nutritious and delicious beef and dairy products. It culminates for me when I get home from work to a delicious meal prepared by my wife Brooke loaded with Arizona beef and dairy.
We thank you for supporting Arizona beef and dairy farmers. We are committed to continuously improving the way we care for our land and cattle, to ensure a sustainable food supply.