A little over a week ago we bought two new Black Angus steers to wander around the ranch and eat grass. They were born a little over six months ago on a ranch just eight miles away. By purchasing our stock locally, the babies won't have any altitude or weather adjustment issues.
First, though, they had a week's stay in a corral since they had just left their mommas. We wouldn't want these little guys wandering down the road, looking for their moms.
When I went to their home ranch to choose, the babies were with their mommas, ambling about, eating grass and drinking milk. Little did they know it was time to be weaned.
So for the first couple of days they were sad, mooing for their mommas. A friend who learned about this said it made her boobs leak!
And then she said that was TMI.
But the other day we opened the corral gate.
It didn't take much for them to realize there was a whole other world out there.
One with real grass, not hay. Yummers.
These guys are a little under 350 pounds right now, but in a year they will be close to 1200-1400 pounds after almost nonstop eating of grass, oak, and whatever else looks tasty.If it snows and covers up the grass, or gets really cold, they will get some hay, too.
How will their lives be different from factory farmed steers?
1. They will never see a feedlot, where thousands of cattle spend six to twelve months of their lives eating mostly corn, which they are not evolved to eat.
2. Because they will never see a feedlot, they will have happy tummies and never need antibiotics. The grain that factory farmed beef eat causes digestive upset and liver damage and they are often ill, so they need medicine.
3. They will breathe easily and see clearly. No gigantic pens full of beef cattle, kicking up manure contaminated dust which can get into lungs and eyes.
4. Stress will be minimal. Treats are served almost every day so the steers will not be afraid of their caretakers.
5. They will have a calm death. Some slaughterhouses process 300-400 cattle an hour. It can be chaotic. Our steers will either die right here at the ranch, not knowing what hit them, or will travel 30 miles to a processor who kills one beef at a time in a quiet room.
One thing I have learned in the three years we have raised beef cattle is that it's important to put a face on what you eat and on who is raising it.
When we eat an animal we are complicit in that animal's welfare whether we want to be or not. I have a hard time eating meat from animals and farmers I don't know because who knows what kind of life that animal had?
May I suggest a book? Read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan where he follows each of four meals from source to final product.
That's when I really began thinking about how my food is produced.