The air is cold and the wind whips around the barns. We pull the calf sled with a newly born baby calf into the barn and coax their anxious mother in after it. The beam from the flashlight shows a shimmering baby calf in the dull light of the calving barn. The mama cow fiercely tends to her newborn calf and warns us to leave her be. We quietly shut the barn door and return to the house. It’s 2 AM, but that doesn’t matter, “our girls” need looked after and tended to no matter the hour.
In recent years, there has been a continued concern from the public that begs the question: where does our food come from and how does it get here? There have been documentaries and television programs that have attempted to mislead the general public into believing that the way their food is produced is unsafe and careless. It’s time to set the record straight on the propaganda-filled, manipulated, baseless documentaries that try to demonize the meat industry, and the farmers and ranchers that put food on our tables. So, from a first-hand and factually-based point-of-view, here are 3 things that go into your meat before you get it:
1. Long, hard, and tireless hours of stewardship. Tending and caring for not only our livestock, but for crops and pasture alike, is at the forefront of any good stewards core values. Folks in production agriculture MUST take care of what they grow, whether it be animals or crops, in order to make a living. Irresponsible stewardship never leads to a viable operation. Most farmers and ranchers care more for their operation than they do for themselves and would do anything to make it succeed. Viability is not the only reason for stewardship, it is the right thing to do. We pride ourselves in caring for land and livestock with an unmatched ethic. This dedication takes sleepless nights, 14+ hour days, and constant evaluation of “what we can do better.”
2. Careful selection of diet and healthcare for our livestock. Feeding commercial cattle (or any commercial livestock) is not as simple as kicking them out to pasture. The pasture itself has to be carefully tended to to insure that it is of good quality, has protein content, and is rested enough to support grazing. whatever the pasture is unable to provide, has to be provided through a mineral and salt program. This mineral and salt program DOES NOT include antibiotics and hormones. Antibiotics are only administered if the animal is sick, animals are not given antibiotics to “enhance” the meat. Even after all of this, they cannot be supported by pasture year round in some parts of the country. Here in Colorado, we feed bales anywhere from 1-3 months out of the year, depending on the weather. Sick animals are always tended to and segregated from the heard to insure over-all animal wellness. Vaccinations are used at a young age to protect animals from disease, just like humans do. Vaccinations are never dangerous to the quality of meat and are used to ensure that the public receives a healthy source of protein. Vaccinations are not scary or harmful, they are necessary.
3. Careful handling and animal-wellness practices. Commercial livestock producers are NOT abusive to their animals. Much of the propaganda regarding the meat industry is baseless and is manipulated in a way to make the general public believe that animals are mistreated within the meat industry. To set the record straight, it is unethical and financially devastating to mistreat livestock. Just as there is in any industry, there are people who are irresponsible and make poor choices, agriculture is not immune to that, but I can say that the vast majority of producers would never abuse or mistreat their animals because they do so much for us and our families. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. I believe it is ethical to consume meat as a source of protein and utilize animal byproducts, with the contingency that we give them the best life possible while they are in our care. That is exactly what we do. In the financial aspect, mistreated livestock cannot be of good quality, therefore are not going to be cost-effective. No one can make a living by mistreating animals. On a more basic level, the easier and more calm you handle livestock, the better they work. It is good for them and good for us.
The list of all of the hard work that goes into raising commercial livestock cannot possibly be condensed into one post. The countless hours, sleepless nights, and constant worry can never be explained or understood unless you live it. Besides stewardship, animal health and wellness are always at the forefront of a producers priorities. We want to provide a safe,reliable, and affordable source of protein to the American consumer and the world. We feed our family the same meat that we provide to the consumer. Though the nights are cold and long, and the work never seems to end, we are proud to fuel the people of our great country. Feeding the world and stewarding God’s creation is the greatest life we could imagine. God bless our livestock, the consumer, and the American rancher.