The Beef Cycle

The Beef Cycle

We picked beef as our life cycle project, because we want to show how beef is produced and we also want raise awareness (Bewusstsein) about human beef consumption habits.

We have become accustomed (gewohnt) to buying beef at supermarkets,which is mostly mass produced beef, are there alternatives? how does this affect our planet?

Through different methods such as interviews, surveys and personal experiences on a Zurich-based farm, we want to educate our peers (unsere Kollegen/Mitmenschen) on beef production.

We are going to:
– Visit a regional farm to ask some questions and take some photos

– Look at the process of beef production

– Show how the beef production affects our planet

– Have an interview with a vegetarian

Insight into the world of organic beef farming
When we first came up with our life cycle project topic, we wanted to show the world the horrible and inhumane world of beef production. To our surprise, we had to change the direction of our project after visiting a local organic beef farm.

We visited Ruedi on his farm on a Thursday afternoon (17.11.2016), it was a very nice experience. Ruedi was very welcoming and gave us answers to all of our questions, sometimes even without asking. Ruedi surprised us with his knowledge and we had some very nice discussions with him after our interview (below). We are very thankful for this opportunity. He opened our eyes and gave us a different perspective on beef production. We learned that there are different ways how beef can be produced and what an environmental difference it makes to farm organically!

We discovered that there are two worlds when it comes to Beef Farming. Per usual, we only get fed the negative and awful sides of it by the media – we only see/hear about the American mass production of beef and how it is killing our planet. We got our own on-site experience at Ruedi’s farm, we got an inside look at the world of organic farming.

Interview with Ruedi Kaspar (Local Eco-Farmer)

– What type of Cows do you have on your farm?

We keep the “Hinterwälder” type on our farm. They are much lighter than other cow-types, so they need less food than others and don’t do a lot of damage to the meadows (Wiesenflächen). Another positive aspect is, that they have no problems with the climate here in Switzerland

– Where do you sell the Beef?

I sell my beef only to customers that I know. When I bring them their order, I sit down and we chat/discuss different topics, of course we talk a lot about the overconsumption of the humans.

– Do you kill the cows by yourself and how?

I transport my cows (only one at a time) to a slaughter house in Fischenthal. They kill them fast and efficiently. First they shoot a metal bolt into their brains, so that they are anesthetized (betäubt). After that, they cut off the throat and let them bleed out. This process includes practically no pain for the cows and goes really fast.

– What do you give them for food?

I feed them weed and hay. The only thing I have to buy is some salt, because this ingredient is essential for them. We dont fertilize (düngen) the land, because it is hard to get there with our machines.

– How long do they live on your farm?

My Cows are on my farm for about 20 years, they give birth to a lot of calfs (Kälber) while they are with us.

– What do you do with cows who get sick?

It is very rare that one of our cows get sick. If it happens, we first use at some homeopathic remedies and most of the time that’s it for the healing process. If it is very serious, the doctor comes by and has a look at them.

– Is it true that the production of 1 kilo beef cost us 15’000 liters of water?

It definitely depends. On our farm, we only use water that comes from a natural spring or the creek (Bach), so we never end up wasting water.

– What has to change that people become more aware of overconsumtion and how it harms our environment?

There has to be a change in their consciousness about our environment and how overconsumption affects everything that we need to live a healthy life. When they are aware of all these things, people will automatically change their habits. Me and my family for example, we eat meat 3 times (max.) a week and even this would be too much if we wouldn’t have so much of it.

– What is the most important thing for you when it comes to your cows?

The most important thing for me is, that they are happy and live a long life without getting sick.

– What about the meat processing?

After the process of killing our cows, they get transported to Bäretswil and a local butcher does the rest of the work. Steg (where they live), Fischenthal (where they get killed) and Bäretswil (butcher) are close together, so the whole process doesn’t need a lot of energy for the Transport.

Thanks a lot for this opportunity and your authentic way of answering our questions!


Here are some major differences between organic farming versus mass farming:

Organic Beef Production Mass Beef Production
Ruedi owns 10 cows Mass producing Beef farms have over 100 cows
Ruedi collects water from a local stream Cows are fed antibiotics
They own two fields: one is for when cows graze freely in the summer and the other one is to collect food for the cows in the winter. Factory farmed cows get fed low quality and cheap Food and it makes them sick
They do not import any products to maintain (pflegen) their farm. Grain imports from developing countries.
His cows hardly ever get sick and when they do he treats them with natural medicine. These cows are under major amounts of stress, which in the end makes low quality Beef.
He has a local butcher to minimize emissions Beef gets transported around the world and causes a lot of greenhouse gases.
His Beef Feeds local customers Leading cause of mass extinction

Interview with a vegetarian

We conducted an interview with Daves 19 year old sister, who is a vegeterian to show a contrast to our project.

– Since when are you a vegetarian?

I decided to be a vegetarian when I was twelve years old.

– Why?

The main reason is that I love animals and I do not want to eat what I love.
The second reason is that the production of meat harms our environment. I found out about this when I was 15 and it reinforced (verstärkte) my decision to be a vegeterian.

– What are the difficulties?

A lot of restaurants do not have a big choice of vegetarian menus. Sometimes I have to order a salad as a main course, because it is the only thing without meat in it.

– Did it cause any health problems?

At the beginning yes. I had problems with my iron levels and it caused inbalances in my body. My mom helped my with the nutritions and then it was not a problem anymore.

– What were the positive reactions of your body?

I am less stressed and my stomach does not have a lot of problems since I’ve stopped eating meat. I strongly believe that this is the result of my vegetarian lifestyle.

– Do you sometimes have a desire to eat meat?

Yes, I like the taste of it. Liking the taste of meat isn’t a strong enough reason for me to abandon (verlassen) my vegetarian lifestyle.

– Do you judge people who eat meat?

No, only the ones who do it excessively.

– Do you try to “convert” people into vegetarians?

No, of course not. But I really like to discuss the meat consumption of our planet and that it is important to get your meat from regional farmers. I had a lot of success with that and some people changed their behavior.

Global Meat Consumption

Here is a short comparison between three countries and their per capita (yearly) meat consumption.

America 124kg/per person – Switzerland 52kg/per person – Rawanda( Africa) 4kg/per person

World Average: 41kg/per person

What About Your Meat Consumption? (Survey)

We conducted a Survey at our school on This survey showed us the meat consumption habits of over 80 participants, here are the results:

Do yout eat meat? How many times a week do you eat meat? Do you think about environmental impacts eating meat? Is it important to you how animals were treated before they are killed? What kind of meat do you buy?


Throughout the journey of our project we have come to the conclusion that there are different ways to produce beef, some better, some worse. The main reason for the production of bad beef is the current over-consumtion habit of humans, this habit forces farmers/companies to lower the cost of production, thus neglecting (vernachlässigen) the quality of the production and product. An additional reason is the current economy, everyone needs to save money. Organic beef is more expensive than mass produced meat, this furthers bad mass production of beef.

Meat consumption per capita
Beef production
Survey tool (

we used a collection of our own pictures. The insight into the world of organic farming is from our afternoon at Ruedi Kaspars farm.

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

8 thoughts on “The Beef Cycle

  1. Nowdays eating meat is a daily event in our society. Therefore, we should also be aware of the origin as well as the side effects.
    We think that overall it was a great text with many different aspects. For example, the Interview with a Vegetarian was a great idea to showcase here view on things. One other thing is your visit on a regional farm and the comparison between organic beef production and a massive beef production. The differences between the farmer and the mass production are impressive.

    On the other hand, the thing we missed is a personal touch from yourself. Even if the survey at school was a terrific idea.

    Constructive Feedback / Improvement:

    It was a good contribution, however, for a next time we would also like to have the writers own opinion. The concise survey results made the whole thing seem a little “dry”, although it had three pictures, you could easily add more for next time. Also some that are “limiting”, since this topic portrays such aspects. Therefore include more media.

    Inputs –> Some comparisons about the prices of organic meat compared to imported mass produced beef, would be also very interesting.

  2. Their article includes a first-hand experience with a local farmer. This makes the project more authentic. Also I thought that the interview with a vegan person was a great idea to provide a different view on the meat issue. Furthermore they used some graphs which indicate a comparison about eating habits. The group proposed some recommendations about how to reduce meat consumption. Sadly they forgot about the sources of their text. In conclusion I would evaluate the article with a good overall qualification.

  3. Hello Ben & Dave
    Finally I arrived to read Your work. My english is bareley good enough to understand it.
    but now I wechsle ins Hochdeutsch. Es hat mich gefreut als \”gutes\” Beispiel erwähnt zu werden. Das motiviert mich natürlich weiterzumachen, unsere Kunden zu sensibilisieren. Ich wünsche euch eine gute Zeit und weiterhin viel Freude und Erfolg im Unterricht.
    Liebe Grüsse

  4. Salü Eva,
    geschätzter Ben und Dave

    mit grosser Freude habe ich den ausgezeichneten Bericht gelesen; ausgezeichnet, weil er:
    1. Die Problematik auf verschiedenen und wichtigen Ebenen angeht (Bauer/Tierhaltung; Konsumenten; In- und Ausland (Wichtig, weil die CH wegen stark wachsender Bevölkerung und Beschränkung der LW-Produktion zunehmend auf Importe angewiesen ist, auch bei Käse, Eiern und Fleisch (Beilage)) und das sehr praxisnah: Umfragen.
    2. Die sachlich richtigen Schlüsse zieht und diese korrekt begründet.

    Bei den Werten zum Fleischkonsum gilt es zu korrigieren. Die CH verfuttert pro Jahr und Nase 52kg Fleisch nicht 74. Möglicherweise liegen den angeführten 74kg eine andere Berechnungsmethode zugrunde, aber 52kg sind „offiziell“. Die Autoren sollen kontaktieren, um die aktuellen Zahlen zu erhalten.

    Beste Grüsse
    Dr. Hansuli Huber
    Geschäftsführer Fachbereich

  5. Dear Beef Team
    Your contribution is very well rounded, since you looked at meat production from different perspectives. Good work!
    What I would have liked to have: some comparisons about the prices of organic meat compared to imported mass produced beef, and an analysis of whether two questions your poll depend on each other, i.e. whether people who care to buy organic beef will also eat meat fewer times per week than those who buy just any (imported) beef. I think that both price and conscience (i.e. economical and ecological thinking) will influence the choice of meat and the frequency of buying it. That would actually be an interdisciplinary question that could be answered by economics (consumer demand functions = Preistheorie) and mathematics (data analysis and functions). If you want to analyse this, come see me with your poll data!
    Your math and current T&U teacher
    Eva Waiblinger, zoologist

  6. Dear beef-team

    You\’ve done a very interesting post. 🙂 We think it\’s very good that you make a difference between mass beef production and the organic production, because not every cow on our plate had a unhappy life.
    But it\’s also nice to have another opinon from a vegetarian as well.

  7. Hi team w2w26
    We liked your post. It\’s very interesting. Especially, the meat consumption in america was really impressive. Thanks!
    Best regards,
    Team w2w45

  8. Dear Team w2w26

    We were very interested in your project from beginning because we also often eat beef. The differences between the farmer and the mass production are impressive. The interview with the vegetarian is interesting as well because we\’ve never talked to a vegetarian before. This interview gave us a lifelike impression. Thank you!

    Mara and Gillian, Team w2w40

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