|Nixon Ranch South Dakota|
For anyone bursting with a snarky comment, bite your tongue because the Midwest deserves props for quietly manufacturing items many of us enjoy but would find unsavory if we had to make ourselves.
Liberal, Kansas comes to mind.
Liberal, among other things, is a feedlot and slaughterhouse town with rail lines connecting it to beef markets throughout the Midwest. A lot of Americans, especially those on the coasts or where real estate is dear, never see a feedlot and that makes it easier to ignore what happens in them. The sight and smell of feedlots baking in 104 degree heat is something most people set their GPS to avoid. We passed thousands of head of cattle, some of which may have come from our own ranch, baking in the feedlot sun.
I called Ranch Boss to complain about this for the thousandth time.Those cows have to be dying in that heat, I whined and he said "it's just the way it is."
Given a choice cattle will get out of 104 degree sun and find some shade to lie down. In a feedlot they don't have that choice. To be fair, on the Plains there aren't that many trees either, but still. It is hot and crowded in those pens and the air is full of poo dust.
According to Drovers, the State of South Dakota estimates its cattle losses this year from 1,000-1,500 head mostly due to intense heat and humidity. Feedlots across the country are experiencing similar heat losses. There is an estimated 99 million cattle in the US and 10.4 million are being fattened for slaughter in feedlots.
Michael Pollan are hollering about. Cattle are grown, stored and processed like every other commodity in this country, but unlike corn, cattle are capable of suffering.
If this bothers you, like it does me, there are ways around the industrial meat system. Did you know you can buy beef quarters and halves directly from certain ranches? Is that a convenient or inexpensive solution? Not really, but anymore growing numbers of people are going a little out of their way to reject the "that's just the way we do it" rationale. Here's a Wyoming ranch that is producing non-feedlot beef right off their Teton Range grass. Here's another ranch raised beef site that ships non-antibiotic fed quarters for $500. Here's another one in Idaho.
And to quickly cut through the hype: If you're only worried about what your dinner has been eating, buy natural beef. If you want leaner beef with higher Omega-3 buy grass-fed. If you want to cut out the feedlot, buy ranch raised and ask how it's "finished." Some ranches do all three of those things.
|Nixon Ranch -South Dakota|
Oh yah and where that smarter thing is concerned, E Coli only became a big problem with the growth of industrial meat system, not when people had easy access to beef raised by their neighbors. Salatin has a lot to say about that too.
I keep saying that one day Kirk Ranch beef will be 100% ranch raised and chemical free. But that's a capital intensive promise that requires more real estate with better grass. Of course, right now it seems we are going backward, because like many other producers in Oklahoma and Texas, we just sold our herd. This relentless heat and drought has dried up fields that should be on their third cutting of hay. We, like many others, have no feed. So we sold our bred cows for hamburger. I guess the good news is, they didn't spend much feedlot time before slaughter.
As consumers we have the option not to support the feedlot system. Is it as convenient as buying beef in Walmart? No, but convenience isn't everything. Next time you meet a cattle rancher ask what kind of beef they eat and why.
Some of them will give you an earful.