No bull - what a farmer wants you to know about how beef gets to your plate
June 15th, 2012
01:15 PM ET
Share this on:

Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in Animal Science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. He is one of many farmers utilizing social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at www.AgricultureProud.com or follow on Twitter (@AR_ranchhand) and Facebook.

How does our beef travel from pasture to plate? Can you describe this process from the time a calf is born to the moment your knife slices a steak?

In this country, we are blessed with a great group of farmers who care for their animals and a food safety system to ensure things work properly. There are farmers who do things various ways for good reasons for both their customers and their farms. A good balance of science and communication can go a long way in sustaining this process.

Let me go ahead and put it out there: modern farming has been under scrutiny of late from animal rights organizations, mainstream media journalism, and consumer groups. There is a gap of understanding between what happens on the farm and how the customer perceives it. Farmers make up less than two percent of this country’s population and we are partly to blame for not keeping you, the customer, informed on how our food is grown, what the impacts are on food and the environment, and why it is grown that way.

I come from a family farm in Arkansas. I was raised with cattle in lush, green pastures. Fresh eggs were collected from the barn, vegetables came from the garden, and I fed a few pigs and calves to have meat for my family’s table. This may sound like a historical account of farming, but in reality, this describes most modern farms. According to the Cattlemen's Beef Board, 97 percent of cattle farms in this country are family owned and operated.

cows

It would have been easy for me to stay in my own little corner of the world and assume raising cattle was only the way I was taught. I did not know it when I left home for college, but I was on my journey to learn how cattle are raised across the country. I worked for a ranch in Wyoming where cattle were marketed for natural beef programs, and for a variety of farmers in Oklahoma and Arkansas where farming is not their primary occupation. While in Texas, I worked for two of the largest cattle feedlots in the country. There is a multitude of different places out there, all with different ways of managing cattle. With my experience has come a great deal of learning.

First: raising cattle is a lifestyle for all of these folks, a family affair in most cases. Farming takes hard work, dedication, and a passion for that work. Raising cattle can be far from the romantic image of cowboys on the range huddled around the campfire or grandmother’s farm with a red barn and chickens in the yard. We still have the same goals and values of raising animals and producing food, but there are many tools that allow farmers to do their job more efficiently. It is because of the modern farmer’s work today that most Americans can pursue their own ambitions and many choose them off the farm and outside of the home, make many advances in a modern lifestyle and not have to worry about hunting and gathering food for the family.

Second: raising cattle must be economically sustainable. Large or small, farming is a business, as well as the lifestyle for most of us. Farmers have families to feed too. Some get wealthy in agriculture, but most do it because they are passionate about rural America, producing food for their communities and working alongside family. We choose to provide food on the table, provide proper care for our animals, and improve our environments.

ryan goodman

We lose thousands of farmland acres each year to competition from urban development. Farmers have learned to become more efficient by embracing technology and better management tools to produce more beef on fewer acres. In doing this, we have also improved our environment by reducing our carbon footprint by 16 percent since 1977.

My journey has also taught me that farmers are not perfect. Most all the people I have met are genuinely good people, but we make mistakes. A good farmer learns from those mistakes and improves upon them. There are bad apples out there, as there are in any way of life. Farmers do not accept cruel treatment to animals. We should not allow cases of animal cruelty or journalism’s portrayal of such acts reflect on the entire farming community.

Many people in America today trust farmers, but not necessarily modern farming practices. I am here to encourage you to get to know a farmer, not just one, but farmers from a variety of places. We are people who do our grocery shopping in town and take our kids to ball practice just like many of you. The future of food and agriculture relies on a new generation of farmers. Will you shun them and tell them what they are doing wrong or join a discussion to learn about how food is grown and what we can do to make things better? If you do not know how to find them, I would be glad to help through the social media networks I have built. There are lots of us willing to have conversations about how this works.

Farmers need to do a better job of reaching out and listening to your concerns, our customer, because your opinion matters. Get to know where your food comes from. Do not tell farmers what they are doing wrong; rather ask what it is farmers do, let farmers ask questions, and in the course of conversation there will be better understanding on both sides.

Got questions? We'll try to get you some answers. Leave your questions in the comments below, and we'll do our best to get a farmer to share some insight.

Previously - Five sustainable lessons from a family farm



soundoff (497 Responses)
  1. raidergirl52

    Reblogged this on Raiderland Adventures and commented:
    No bull – what a farmer wants you to know about how beef gets to your plate

    June 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  2. June

    I married a (former) dairy farmer.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Solo

      Hopefully, he won't milk the system too.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
      • Fed Up

        Moo! ...I mean, Bravo!

        June 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • MarkGlicker

      Does he look past yer eyes?

      June 17, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  3. Provoked

    They keep telling us to "get to know your farmer"... Well I have – Several "beef" ranchers, a few chicken farmers and one 2 families that grow pigs. I STILL don't like what I see and know! How many times makes it enough for them to know that you know... And still don't approve of their practices?

    From the manipulation of the land to the mutilation of the animals – None of it is ethical! We don't "need" to continue these harmful practices in order to feed ourselves. A plant based diet is the direction that we should be going in: Compassionate, sustainable and better for human health.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • strategicstl

      So let's just objectively run a bit of math. You want to go vegan globally. Ok, what diet or mix do you think an American vegan will want to eat? Typically, fresh fruits and veggies that grow in limited bands of soil and space. Now these bands of soil and space are in heavy competition with other water uses. Hmmmm.

      So, we have 3 billion new middle class citizens coming globally by 2030 (well underway). The FIRST thing they and their governments encourage is to start consuming more meat and dairy for health. Hmmm.

      Now we have people eating food as a conveniance and we have the perishability factor of the common vegan diet. So the more you are "on the go" as a family the harder to play vegan. The more you eat out, the harder. Assume you convert quick casual and quick serve to vegan. You massively increase post harvest loss which is about the most dramatic way to destroy sustainability. Hmmmm.

      It isn't a scalable or workable model. It exists only in idealistic Norman Rockwell pictures. Unfortunately, too many people simply have never seen modern agriculture so they have these warped and peverted pictures of it. AND, they have idealistic images of fresh, local, organic. You do realize your organic produce is likely covered in human poop right? Or it takes so much more land and water per calorie than beef, right? (So totally unsustainable if you could grow it on the same land).

      June 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • strategicstl

      Incorrect. If you want a wholly vegan population variety of fruits and vegetables will be essential. Much of that variety grows in a narrow band of soil, moisture, and temperature considerations. This results in a great deal of competition for water and inability to scale production to meet your needs. So you can't realistically meet demand.

      Then you have huge net increases in inputs and a dramatic decrease in sustainability. Seems counter-intuitive until you run out the numbers. You lose in logistics and post harvest loss (perishability issues) as well as inventory control so your net impact on the environment is far greater actually. If energy costs came down and grain stayed high, it would balance. That is unlikely.

      Don't forget that food has become a service and an issue of speed. This essentially wrecks havoc on the traditional vegan as better model because you can't convert QSR or quick casuals without huge impacts on profitability or pricing or post harvest loss (money or sustainability). Plus the conversion cost would be thru the roof much like converting from gas to natural gas for automobiles.

      You have to take the problem all the way thru!

      June 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Strange1

      What a snob.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Guest

      If you think the majority of the American population is going to give up meat for a plant-based diet you're a fool. And it will be one thousand times harder to get China to do the same.

      June 17, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • Ari

      I love chicken, pork, beef, eggs, milk, cheese & my kids do too. Why should everyone go to all plant foods? The protein is not there, as well as many other nutrients. Eat what you want, I don't have time to spend all day in the kitchen trying to mix my veggies well enough to get my nutritional needs met.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
      • Britt

        You need to do a bit more research on protein if you think that you can't get enough eating a plant based diet.

        June 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
      • burlington11

        wow .. if anybody here believes you need to eat meat to get enough protein, they are very uneducated and truly hopeless. Any registered dietician in north america will tell you that even vegetarians have at least twice the protein a human body actually needs. Meat eaters have up to 4 times what they need. I am not a vegan or vegetarian, but I do eat less meat because it has been proven time and time again a diet which consisting of too much meat will cause heart disease, cholesterol, obesity, increased risk of stroke, the list goes on. It is clear people here do not educate themselves on how to look after themselves. Anybody who hasn't lived under a rock knows today's cows have never even seen a blade of grass. They are pumped full of antibiotics (no normal animal could survive the disgusting conditions of a factory farm without them) and hormones, and contaminated grain. People still wonder why they get obese and end up with cancer. Truthfully, if you can eat all that junk, you should be ready to face the consequences. (I keep my meat to a minimum and try to always buy organic.. if you cant afford organic, maybe you would rather spend the money on medical bills and cancer treatments.. because that`s part of the package)

        June 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • SlowMoneyFarm

      With all due respect then, those aren't your farmers are they? If you're vegan, get to know YOUR FARMER – those that grow what you eat. If you don't agree with raising livestock then what good does it do to take their time and yours for something that isn't going to change? Support those you can be a customer of. Have a great day.

      June 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  4. Frankensteer

    What a nonsense article this is. Nowhere do they mention that these cows are being fed corn and how this is NOT a part of their natural diet. They also use beef bi-products in their feed as well. Now days our cattle are cannibals. They do this to cut down on costs.

    This practice and cutting corners to save money is EXACTLY why we're getting sick with flesh eating bacteria and E coli. Spinal fluids have been proven over and over again to be causing these illnesses but we STILL continue to use these sick unethical methods of feeding.

    If you don't believe me do the research yourself. There are two really informative do cu me nta ries on Ne t f lix about cattle. One is called Fo od I nc and the other is called Fran kens te er. If you want to know the truth, and would rather educate yourself, instead of this feel good nonsense article, watch the doc ume nta ries.

    Remember, It's business as usual, and profits will always be more important than ethical farming or human life.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • gargle

      King Corn on N et F lix is also a good one.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jeff

      *YAWN*

      June 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
      • Frankensteer

        Hey Jeff, go back to your sports and drinking beer. We all know you don't care because your belly says everything.

        June 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
      • Liberal Elitist

        Oh, dear. Multi-syllable words seem to have lulled Jeffy to sleep.

        Hush, now. Nobody wake him with facts, please.

        June 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • strategicstl

      Well, as one of the original authors of the Frankenfood termonology let me assure you this is garbage.
      First, the term was created to promote margin in what otherwise was a flat sector of retail grocery: fruit and vegs. You simply pay more for organic. Hence, scaring you to irrationally pay more was what created the term.

      Now, let's debunk the corn vs grass myth. We improve crops and we improve cows. You simply are unlikely to accept "natural" fruits, vegetables and grains as they existed say even 100 years ago. The berries, the corn, the pulses, the tubers, the everything would simply look totally unappetizing. Your diet bet you a Nebraska steak dinner is a function of very careful selection. We can talk about genetic versus conventional selection but point is we select what works and creates great product.

      HENCE. . . corn over grass. More meat per lb of input. Less land being used. Less water being used. Less carbon emissions (total and per cow methane production). Less disease. Less instances per serving of food safety issues. Less transportation and foreign oil costs (closer to production and market). Grown where there is less competition for water. Overall, dramatically improved sustainability and taste. ALL you have is this vague notion of "natural" and let me tell ya. . . natural food. . . well it doesn't look good, taste good, or do good for the environment. Nice try though!

      June 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • strategicstl

      Sorry, having keynoted global food safety conferences the facts are you are far more likely to get a serious food borne illness from organic produce than beef. I remember a famous lawyer who sues everyone after food outbreaks Bill Marler from the MarlerClark law firm went to a cattleman association meeting and told the beef industry they cleaned up their act and used to account for 75% (I think that is right) of his income and now represent under 10%. The growth. . . leafy green veggies.

      I can give you specific reported numbers for the US. You have to look at it not in terms of total cases (we eat more protein). But on number of servings per incident. Then look at total number of hospital borne illnesses because frankly just getting diareha from norovirus (most common foodborne illness often mistaken for a nonsense term stomach flu) isn't what ultimately matters most.

      The issue is simple. Manure is an organic fertilizer. Animals enter fields even if you have perfect manure compliance. Human workers often defecate where they work because the toilets are too far away and they are incentivised based on production. In short, e. coli just happens. The key is the kill steps. You kill e.coli with heat, radiation, acidified sodium chlorate (think lemon juice and salt folks the words sound scary if you have no idea what they mean), etc. You don't and can't perform an easy kill step on leafy green vegetables. You can't wash away the most dangerous pathogens especially non enveloped viruses. Raw will always be more dangerous even if nutrient dense. Even with an Ecolab wash the kill rates are lower. Then you wash most vegetables in huge vats so if you have contaminated heads of lettuce the water acts as a conduit to contaminating much larger amounts. But who wants to eat dirt???? It is a tradeoff. Conventional and especially GMO will always be safer to eat because they allow you to bypass some of the practices most responsible for these hospitalizations and renal failures.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • heroicslugtest

      Look, I don't care if cows are eating corn or other cows or Bengal Tigers, so long as I can order a burger at a decent price.

      I don't care about the life history of my food. Make it cheap, reasonably healthy, and plenty of it. Great, thanks, bye.

      June 17, 2012 at 6:33 am |
      • Kevin

        I love your comment, because it is honest. Many people try to justify how eating meat isn't wrong or harmful to animals, the environment, and our health. You just put it right out there. You don't care at all about the well-being of animals, you don't care about their suffering, you don't care as long as you can get a cheap McDonald's hamburger. This is what the animal rights activists have yet to understand. They care about animals, they have compassion, and they expect that everyone else feels that same way. But they are wrong, and people like you prove it. They are wasting their time because the majority of people do not care. It's all about them and what they get out of it. They would be wise to listen to your message and give up on trying to create compassion where it doesn't exist.

        June 17, 2012 at 10:38 am |
      • LFTB4LYFE

        ...and im proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free...

        June 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • remsteel6

      Totally false, cattle cannot be fed ruminant byproducts

      June 18, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  5. Rel

    The practice of feeding grains to meat animals wrecks the fatty acid content of the meat, causing an abundance of inflammatory omega-6's, already grossly overrepresented in the American diet, and a dearth of omega-3's, already virtually absent from said diet.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • gargle

      That's just one problem with feeding livestock grains. All the land and water used is, at this rate, unsustainable. We are destroying our world for the sake of $1 cheeseburgers at McDonalds. I have no faith left in humanity.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
      • Rel

        Life on Earth is hardier than one might think.

        And I wouldn't write off all of humanity, not just yet.

        June 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
      • gargle

        yeah....maybe once all the baby boomers die and the people who actually care about this world are in charge.

        June 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
        • Rob

          That's what the baby boomers used to say...

          June 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
        • matilda

          hey, little smartie pants~

          i, along w/ most of my baby boomer friends are either vegetarians or vegans. we're smart enough to understand how the meat industry works and want nothing to do with it. we buy organic foods whenever possible and support the humane treatment of ALL animals.

          June 17, 2012 at 5:32 am |
        • heroicslugtest

          Hate to break it to you, sport, but I'm twenty and am not buying into the eco-garbage.

          I'll take my burgers, my sports car, and my McMansion. You can eat soy-fu in your carbon neutral micro house all you want, but don't fool yourself into thinking that your ..foolishness.. is the norm for your generation.

          It's not. Thank the nonexistent gods for that.

          June 17, 2012 at 6:37 am |
      • NY Jets are best!

        Why don't you try a .45?

        June 17, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • strategicstl

      Reality check. You essentially are arguing the nutrient quality of the beef is incrementally worse. Ok, let's talk about things that impact human health by order of magnitude. It is eat less and sweat more. Simple stuff. Only when you optimize your total diet and exercise and caloric intake does this argument make an iota of difference. It is like scouring the contents of a multi-vitamin then eating a box of Twinkies. This is not a relevant point except for the most minute cluster of population that intersects the pinacle of all health preventative measures. Plus, you ignore the other changes to nutrient quality that corn fed beef provides like the better control of fat distribution. Hmmmm.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  6. Philip

    Great article as a farmer/ rancher I take pride in caring for animal just like those of you in towns / cities do for your pets. Your cattle graze on pastures for about 8 months then they graze corn stalks picking up the corn / corn plant left behind from harvesting of the crop. We supplement them with vitamins and minerals all year round in hopes of maintaining them in a healthy productive body condition. Beef production in the united states provide the highest quality,lowest cost protein source that you can find anywhere in the world.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • strategicstl

      So many people spout garbage science that is akin to reading the back of a bottle of ginko bilboa. It just isn't real. You have to know reality to have any sort of valid point of view. If you never have seen modern agriculture, chances are you have the right to an opinion (everyone does) but little chance of having a valid opinion.

      Now in fairness, beef never was or is the lowest cost protein, though in America the cost of producting beef is lower than elsewhere.

      Grass fed beef has issues folks often overlook. More land. More water. More disease. More food safety issues (yup run the stats per serving. We can talk why later). It has more footprint, more cost and is a whole lot less "green" thank folks think just by looking at it. It also tasts worse. You pay good money for bad beef? Why? Beef must be natural but what about your latte? The cream is natural by the same definition? See, it all comes down to what YOU value most in your diet versus what you THINK someone else should value less.

      People get hung up on the concept of natural. Well "natural corn" (you know the stuff without selection) you wouldn't eat. Really. We improve crops and cows and production, taste, lower inputs and generally are more sustainable. Want to talk green? Talk MODERN farming.

      Then there are people who foolishly argue that there are no health benefits to meat consumption. Meanwhile growth markets are increasingly encouraging the consumption of meat FOR HEALTH from populations finally wealthy enough to afford it? Do we have scores of countries with billions of people wrong or just a few vegan fundamentalists seeing things thru rosey glasses?

      There are issues with agriculture on a localized basis. Water can be in competition. That is why American beef is more sustainable. We simply have more water and land to essentially export in the form of high quality beef.

      So get a clue. Want to improve health. Eat less. Exercise more. Be less concerned over the Omega 6s vs Omega 3s until you have vanquished the simple stuff that returns more value. Now if you are a personal trainer with an optimized diet or a professional athelete. . . then maybe. . . . But the average American should be worried more about sweat and calories than the junk espoused when people pretend to understand the "benefits of natural". After all, we talk about organic food as if there is such a thing as inorganic food. Seriously????

      June 16, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • strategicstl

      When did farmerrs become "the bad guy"? Historically, farming taught work ethic, dependence on neighbors in hard times, independence when you can do it yourself, a long term view (you are passing down the farm), etc. It represented the best of the American character. Now people who have no clue about agriculture talk about the corporate farm. Anyone every really meet a farmer that looked corporate? That spent his days like he was in an urban company? What is corporate about boots in manure and a sweaty dusty John Deere cap? Hmmmm

      June 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  7. gargle

    If we keep feeding livestock corn, we are going to run out of water really soon.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • gargle

      Unsustainable water usage people. Our aquifers aren't going to last forever. The next major global conflicts will be over water rights. I'd bet everything on that.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
      • Guest

        You'd lose that bet.

        June 17, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Philip

      That is not true ! While there is water irrigated on to crops only a portion of corn crop that relies on the water. Natural rain fall is required to raise the crops that feed the world!

      June 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
      • Rel

        Corn is the worst thing you can feed meat animals, from the standpoint of the health of those consuming them.

        June 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
        • matilda

          Especially when that corn has been genetically modified. :(

          June 17, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • gargle

      yeah, and the population of the world is increasing EXPONENTIALLY.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
      • Rob

        No, actually it isn't. Exponential growth implies that our population is increasing at an increasing rate. That kind of growth curve has a J-shape when plotted on a graph. In contrast, our population is increasing at a decreasing rate. That's logistic growth and it has an S-shape when plotted out. The UN Population Division expects it to level out and reach its maximum a little past half way through this century at about 9 billion. Now, in my opinion, 9 billion is still way too many people for this planet to sustain, but it is a very different situation that exponential growth.

        June 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
        • strategicstl

          Food 2040 (USDA and USGC) and any FAO or UN report will counter. Growth is steady but steady growth on an increasing base is what generates the need for double the food production in somewhere between 30 and 40 years (with much of it coming as we go versus mysteriously being needed at the end of the cycle of course).

          This also leads to the need to move, process, manufacture etc. That requires deep investment unless you are optimized like the American farmer to produce more with less (grains, meat, and CPG shelf ready foods). We just havve the advantage of land, water and climate.

          On population, the dramatic growth is tied to countries with high birth rates in Asia (total growth) and Africa (incremental growth). This results in a need to export what will be far more stable (processed food simply transports and can deal with the long supplychain). These countries do not have the land, water or soil to be self sufficient. They need to import water, land and low cost via purchasing food produced in modern agricultural countries. Just the facts.

          June 16, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • gargle

      Rice is far less water intensive, as are most crops. Corn is one of the thirstiest crops, but provides less food per acre than many other crops.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
      • strategicstl

        Having helped many emerging countries move to a balanced crop plan, I just don't know what to say to such a statement. Sometimes people get confused in the amount of water that is uptook by a plant versus what is required to be in the soild to effectuate the uptake. That can skew a common understanding. Yield per unit of water supply is what the FAO uses. You just don't win with rice. Look at average water usage in inches per day. Then you also have that most corn is rainfed which has little impact. Most rice is not wholly.

        June 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Frankensteer

      gargle has a good point. We're drying up because our fresh water supply is not sustainable.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
      • strategicstl

        Look at studies on why we are drying up water usage done by neutral parties with no stake in the game be they IBM, Accenture, McKinnsey, World Economic Forum, etc. The usage of water is certainly more skewed to agriculture than say any other use, but the draw from aquifers is tied more to narrow classes of crops which would surprise you are specialty fruits and veggies vs cash crops. Now that varies by location certainly. But you don't solve the problem on cash crops (North America focused discussion) as much as you would with other subsectors and industrial uses.

        June 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Ally

      I would argue it's not the fact that we're growing corn that's bad. It's WHERE we're growing the corn. To use our water in the best way we need to choose to grow crops that would naturally thrive in that region with the rainfall it gets. Iowa has a perfect climate for growing corn. Texas....not so much.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
      • strategicstl

        Generally Ally that is what is a positive point on corn. Now because corn prices are rising dramatically tied to increased global population and income wanting the benefits of protein in their diet for the first time regularly, you start to use more marginal land.

        The question is what was this land otherwise producing before? Chances are it was not new farmland put into production as statistically not much of that is happening (on a percentage basis). Take a look at the water requirements for those crops and often you find corn becomes king at reducing inputs and being sustainable.

        Now if you really want to create more sustainable corn, you select germplasm to reduce the height of the stalks which is material which is not consumed. Of course, that material is plowed into the Earth and reduces the need for nutrients which also take inputs to create including water. It just isn't simple.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • strategicstl

      Not true. Corn is a very water efficient plant. That is why India is moving to a corn and rice mix in the Northern provinces that are seeing less snowpack melt from the mountains. You also grow corn where there is little competition for water and it is typically rain fed versus irrigated so you have no impact on aquifers as is being misrepresented.

      Now take our vegan and organic friends. Their crops grow in narrow bands of soil, water and temperature conditions. They tend to require irrigation and have enormous competition on water resources from cities etc. Think CA for example.
      That is a bit simple but it starts to build the picture we can work on.

      The fact is corn and protein, in the US at least, typically reduces water competition versus alternative diets. Just the facts!

      June 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  8. Hannah

    Get to know your farmer? Right. See what happens when you just drop in on your local factory farm. I'm sure you'll be welcomed with open arms and they'll be more than happy to give you the grand tour. Don't forget to swing by the gift shop. Factory farms produce 99% of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States. Their sole purpose is to produce the most food at the cheapest cost to us, whatever that takes. Even if you don't care about the horrific animal cruelty happening in these overcrowded factories, you should care that animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to global warming. I grew up in a farming community as well – my sister and brother-in-law own and operate a cattle farm. And it's a nice little thought to think that all of our meat comes from those lush, green pastures filled with clean, healthy cows you see dotted along the highway. But that's far from the truth.

    June 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Kat

      Actually, they do Hannah. I live on a cattle farm. I live next to 3 other farms, all large producers. Some among the top producers in the country. Our cows all live in lush pastures. True, we have hard times like now with no rain here, but we provide hay and grain to supplement them. Like the article said, 97% of farming is on family owned farms. Not factory. The factory farms try to make up for what we can't produce. With growing populations, urban development buying up farm land and converting them to housing divisions, and blind misconceptions like yours, we are unable to produce enough food for the country, so the factory farmers have a market to fill in that gap. If you want them to stop, you need to work with the farmers, the majority who DO treat our animals very well and WANT to produce more food. And yes, a lot of farmers, especially those who produce food for the national market, would be more than happy to let you see their facilities. I would.

      June 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
      • M

        Actually Kat – Hannah is right – they don't. I used to work for Tyson in the corporate office. There's a lot that happens there (and the other big boy factory farms – where most of your meat comes from) that is strictly off limits to the public. A lot of suppliers (farmers) had to sign confidentiality agreements. Oh, and just because a farm is family owned and operated doesn't mean jack.

        June 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
        • strategicstl

          Well M. I too spent time there and helping the entire protein and grain industry. The key to the confidentiality agreements has FAR less to do with "hiding from the public" and far more to do with maintaining a competitive advantage on production techniques that because of volume and velocity can represent the difference in margin between two similarly situation processors. Remember, that "supplier" of say animal health and wellness inputs is the same for say JBS or Cargill Fresh Meat. Common sense requires that to be confidential. In this era of videos, no company thinks it can hide from the public. No company would try. But keeping key production techniques from a competitor (e.g. line speed, diet, temperature, processing floor configuration) is just good business!

          June 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  9. Solo

    Hmmm... are these the same farmers that claim "hardship" nearly every year and pay less than 10% of taxes? Are these the farmers that get subsidy after subsidy for their land and expect tax dollars to pay for millions of dollars in relief programs and expensive ad campaigns ("Got Milk" and "Beef... it's what's for Dinner") not to mention the loans that they are given zero percent interest on for thirty years, and can write off all losses during that time as well? Just curious.

    June 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Kat

      Again, a lot of misconceptions. In order for a farmer to claim hardship, they have to have lost more than 40% of their "crop" be it plant or animals. Anything less, and the government shrugs it off. Farmers don't get interest free loans. It's been about 50 years since that happened. We do get some subsidies, but only if we accept our farms to be factory farms, with outside workers and feeding our animals what they choose. The majority, the family farmers that keep their farm under their own control and receive very little help. We do get help if something very bad should happen, like in Texas where they had 5 years of drought and had to have hay shipped in from other states. The government paid for SOME of that, but not all. And why shouldn't we get some help? Those farmers are the reason you can go to the store and buy steaks and ribs for your cookouts, have eggs and bacon for breakfast, and enjoy a burger at Burger King. Without that help, you would not have food. Plant or meat. I see people go and get welfare in the city, and quit their jobs because the government is now paying for their housing, food, etc. They live off of government aid and eat better and have better things than most working people. At least when farmers get aid, we use the money to help the entire country with food, not just ourselves. People cry about food shortages and world hunger, but don't want farmers to produce food....

      June 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
      • Solo

        I'm fine with farmers producing food, since it's supposed to be their living. But, there are numerous farmers and co-ops that abuse the system, just like the welfare recipients you reference. I am neither on welfare, nor a farmer but I am paying for both of these groups to abuse my tax dollars. I know several rural communities where farmers accept food stamps because of those declared "losses" and they undervalue projected earnings – and then they file taxes claiming to have made nothing but barely covering expenses. Really? How about the capital they own with the $200k tractors? Nope – that's not earnings, it's allowed assets (just like welfare recipients who drive Cadillacs.) Save the sob story of the American farmer for another day – one in which they meet their obligations like those of us who pay more than a third of our take-home pay to taxes.

        June 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
        • strategicstl

          What is the one thing the American public and government wants the farmer to do? Be optimistic and produce as much as they can. This is an essential part of keeping food prices down. To earn this optimism which is critical for the economy as well as food security and our ability to supply export nutrition to the World, we pay a price. That price is a safety net.

          Trouble in any government program is you build the safety net for a point in time and then the World changes. But it is incredibly difficult to muster the political will to change the law (especially one as complicated and locally driven as farmer safety nets). You see you have to pick winning and losing crops and within crops you have the rainfed farms of Iowa and then the pivot irrigated areas of the South. That creates a lot of local fighting in a Congress and keeps the kind of changes you are looking for from happening.

          So farmers being darn smart and clever simply adapt to the system at hand. It leads to wonky results sometimes but that is a factor of the law and system versus the farmer's manipulation. For every story of a farmer getting more than his or her share, every farmer can tell you about someone who didn't qualify because of a silly nuance. Those stories don't get reported outside of local news.

          System is old a creaky. It isn't the farmer.

          June 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • What?

      @ Solo – Last time I checked, the vast majority of the money – if not every penny – that went to the beef advertising programs came from the beef checkoff fund. This money happens to be paid by the PRODUCERS, not the government. Look it up for yourself.

      June 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
      • Solo

        You are dead wrong – the lobbyists that campaign for these ads get the money directly from taxpayer funds. It's seen as a "necessity" for food production in this country. The Cattlemen's Association & Beef Producers only monitor the content and seek for reduced laws on their production standards – and, I did look it up. The wording is a huge amount of legalese and I am certain of my facts – I used to write speeches for a congressman and know these practices. If you believe all that you read on the Internet, you're their perfect audience = naive.

        June 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
        • What?

          There's an old saying that goes something like "Everybody's entitled to their own 'facts', but not to their own truth". I don't know what "facts" you have, but something tells me you didn't find the "Beef Checkoff Fund". You might want to go back and try that again.

          June 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
        • What?

          See if you can find the "Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985", Solo, and then when you have the "truth", you can come back and tell us what your 'facts' are.

          June 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
        • strategicstl

          Neoither of you is completely wrong or right. So checkoff dollars are from producers but managed initally by both States and Feds. Some checkoff programs are mandatory and others voluntary. Some seem more like a tax. . . though on producers. . . some like a voluntary marketing payment. Key is neither impacts the non-specific commodity producing taxpayer.

          Up until you start talking about matching funds for things like contributor groups such as the US Grains Council or US Meat Export Federation. Of course, the ROI for the taxpayer in these "contributions" is extremely well established and frankly if everything were that efficient in government or required the private sector to contribute half. . . .

          But it isn't without some taxpayer contribution. A heck of a bargain for the taxpayer though!!!!!

          June 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
        • What?

          @ strategiststl – You start off talking about agricultural checkoff programs in general, and then you proceed to two very specific marketing groups that are outside the "scope" of Solo's diatribe/rant. You are probably correct in what you have stated, but Solo was not. I called him on what he posted because it's wrong. The Beef Checkoff Program requires that $1.00 be collected (yes, it is mandatory) on every head of beef that is sold in this country, every time it is sold, with that money going toward marketing and research programs. Call it a 'tax', if you want, but it's a tax levied strictly on the producers, and not the taxpayers at large, which was Solo's contention.

          June 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
        • strategicstl

          What? I understand. Believe me I get enormously frustrated at the 99% who simply don't live it but want to run it. The trouble is without being extremely moderate and considered in our responses, you get the ability to point to what is wrong than understand what is right. Ultimately, the need is not to win points but change sentiment. I agree entirely, but I just think we need to pull them along versus beat the snot out of them a 1 on 99 fight is no fight at all even if they are kindegarteners.

          Take the fine example of "beef slime". We say "beef is beef". Well that comes across as "shutup kid and eat your vegetables they are good for you". You may be right, but I am no more comfortable. I still feel duped. Ultimately, I just feel like someone didn't tell me there was "filler" in that nice ground tenderloin. . . .

          Now you explain how each holiday you inadvertantly ate slime. Thanksgiving. I loved with my brothers to pick the meat off the bone after Dad carved the turkey. Turkey slime? Was I duped? Passover. Had some Jewish family. We couldn't afford filets of Lox so we got the leftover pieces. Lox slime? Was I duped? New Years. Did I just make Slime and Bean soup with the hamhock? Was I duped?

          We all have a "slimy" story of using the meat off the bone of something. Maybe we like to chew the last bit off a T-Bone or rib. Same thing. No one got duped. We just forgot how simple it was to explain.

          Ammonia is just used to keep the PH right so you don't run a risk of food illness. Used in most bakery products. But the 99% think ammonia is this nasty chemcial you don't want to clean your bathroom with because you gag. I get it. But they don't.

          The key is to get folks to a common aha moment even though they have no background. It is like talking about how vegan diets actually cost more land and water and are less sustainable because you have to grow the food in a narrow band of land etc.

          That being said, I appreciate your calling out that it is the farmer (and only if he produces beef) who pays.

          June 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Been There

      In reply to Solo's comment of farmers reaping the benefits of supposed 0% interest rates for 30 years....I work in that industry and if you can find me a loan for 0% interest for ANY number of years, sign me up!!!

      That comment alone speaks volumes as to your misinformed comments!!

      By the way, current rates in the Midwest for farm real estate loans of 30 years are ranging from 4.5% to 6%.....more than residential 30 year mortgages which are currently around 3.75%. What's more, with land values at all time highs, most lenders won't loan a farmer more than 50% of the value of their land being used as security to be in position to survive a downturn in the market. Something the housing industry should have thought of as values were increasing out of control and people were allowed to borrow 100% or more of their home's value. Look where that got us!

      June 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Ally

    Really, CNN? I posted a response to someone farther down on this thread nearly 4 hours ago. How is it still "awaiting moderation"?

    June 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  11. Jeff

    I was raised on a small farm in NE Iowa. The work was hard and sometimes the rewards were few. I can't speak for others, but I can tell you that I treated all of our farm occupants as if they were part of my family. I was put on the farm at the age of 10. My parents both worked jobs off the farm. We had dairy cows, beef cows and hogs. I was up every day at 5am for milking and usually finished at 8-10pm every night. I can say that none of the animals in my care were abused in any way. I don't eat veal, foie gras or any food that involves cruelty to animals. Yes, in the spring, the cows had to walk through manure to get to the pastures. This is a natural occurance after the snow melts. Is that cruel? I don't think so. Every cow had a name, every cow was hugged and scratched just like city folk did with their cats and dogs. Just a perspective from someone who lived it until he went away to college.

    June 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Ryan

      Wow, Jeff. You hugged your cows? That's all the scientific evidence I need to restore my faith in American agriculture. Way to present the facts bro.

      June 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  12. RedClay

    I grew up on a dairy farm until I was age 10. Both my parents grew up on farms. But when Mom & Dad had 4 kids, Dad got a job working in a factory (better pay & benefits). My parents rented the farmhouse from a neighboring farmer who used the land & barn & silo.

    When I was in high school, I worked for 2 different dairy farmers. I never aspired to be a farmer, as I didn't care much about the animals. BUt I did enjoy riding on & driving a tractor. While in college, I spent 3 summers working for a canning factory, working on a field crew driver a pea reaper.

    During the 80s, my cousins lost their dairy farm b/c of debt & the drop of land values. I have a lot of respect for farmers & have felt sad about the demise of the family farm. But this article says that 97% of cattle farms are still family farms – Yeah! That's good news!

    I regret that our children, now young adults, did not experience life on a farm except for a few days we spent visiting my cousin on their farm. There were a lot of fun aspects of growing up on a farm. We esp enjoyed playing in the barn. We took turns milking a cow by hand, & sometimes shared some milk with nearby cats.

    June 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  13. t3chsupport

    That didn't really tell us anything about how they get from pasture to plate...

    June 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Thank for the comment. There isn't nearly enough room in one story to share how food travels from pasture to plate. What I did emphasize is encouraging others to seek opportunities to meet farmers, ask questions, and find out more.

      If you have specific questions, I welcome any messages and will work to follow up. My contacts are listed at the top of the post.

      June 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  14. Frankensteer

    What a nonsense article this is. Nowhere do they mention that these cows are being fed corn and how this is NOT a part of their natural diet. They also use beef bi-products in their feed as well. Now days our cattle are cannibals. They do this to cut down on costs.

    June 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Frankensteer

      This practice and cutting corners to save money is EXACTLY why we're getting sick with flesh eating bacteria and E coli. Spinal fluids have been proven over and over again to be causing these illnesses but we STILL continue to use these sick unethical methods of feeding.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
      • Frankensteer

        These animals diets are so poor, some of them have external tubes surgically placed into their intestines, so that a human can stick his entire arm into the cow and pull out undigested grain.

        If you don't believe me do the research yourself. There are two really informative documentaries on Netflix about cattle. One is called Food Inc and the other is called Frankensteer. If you want to know the truth, and would rather educate yourself, instead of this feel good nonsense article, watch the documentaries.

        Remember, It's business as usual, and profits will always be more important than ethical farming or human life.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • Frankensteer

        These animals diets are so poor, some of them have external tubes surgically placed into their intestines, so that a human can stick his entire arm into the cow and pull out undigested grain.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:48 am |
        • Frankensteer

          If you don't believe me do the research yourself. There are two really informative docu mentaries on N et fli x about cattle. One is called F oo d I nc and the other is called Fra nke nste er. If you want to know the truth, and would rather educate yourself, instead of this feel good nonsense article, watch the docu mentaries.

          June 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
        • Frankensteer

          By the way, I had to post like this because CNN was moderating me. What a wonderful democracy we live in! They obviously don't want you knowing the truth.

          June 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
        • What?

          Mr. Steer (Victor?)

          The stuff that you have posted has come directly out of those two documentaries, which were produced by people with decided agendas. They are, in no way whatsoever, even remotely "objective". If this is your only 'perception' of the food industry in general and meat production specifically, then you really should visit somebody, somewhere and find out the whole story instead of the cherry-picked and overblown worst things possible.

          The "cannula" that you make reference to is used in very few animals for RESEARCH purposes only, to determine what is happening during digestion. If you had any idea of the economics of beef production and knew how much it cost to insert one of these devices, you would realize very quickly that this is not – and could not be – a 'routine' beef production practice.

          June 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
        • J. White

          What are you talking about? Cattle are raised out in the open, on pastures or ranges. They have no barns or shelters, and you would have a heck of a time catching a cow to intubate it. It would be terribly expensive. The breeding stock spend their entire lives on pasture and hay, getting little to no grain.

          Obviously, when you talk of eating cows, you know nothing about cattle. Generally, we don't eat cows. We eat heifers, steers and bulls, all of whom are young. After the calf is born, it spends several months on the range with it's mother, eating milk, hay and grass. When it is around 500 or so pounds, it is sold to dealers who take them to feed lots. That is when all of the grain feeding commences.

          As far as doing surgical procedures on the grain fed animals, don't be silly. That would be very expensive and just not financially feasible. You don't happen to be one of those people who believe that MacDonalds put worms in their beef, are you? Worms, per pound, are much more expensive than beef. But hey, it makes a good story.

          I am not in favor of commercial feed lots for feeder cattle, but let's concentrate on the real issues. False claims only weaken your argument. When one point is proven false, all other points are dismissed along with it.

          It's a little difficult to understand your arguments because you seem to be calling them all "cows". Cows are fully grown female bovines. Bulls are males and steers are castrated males. Heifers are young cows. Feeder cattle, which you seem to be calling "cows", are young cattle destined for slaughter. These are the only one's who get any appreciable amount of grain or other unnatural feed.

          Your arguments would carry a lot more weight if it sounded like you knew what you were talking about.

          June 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
        • What?

          @ J. White – They will not be put in a 'finishing' feedlot at 500 pounds. They are way too small for that at that size. They would go to a "backgrounding" operation first, where their diet would consist almost entirely, if not entirely, of grass/hay.

          June 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
        • Frankensteer

          J.White: I've seen the actual footage of all this myself. I suggest you open your eyes and watch the videos.

          June 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
        • Rob

          What Frankensteer is describing is called a 'fistula' and s/he has completely mischaracterized what it is. Fistulas are used for nutrition research at universities, not in commercial cattle production. So, yes, Frankensteer may well have seen a video of someone removing food from a cow's stomach through a fistula. That's how the research works. They test the disgestibility of different food by taking samples from the rumen through the fistula. But the idea that any commercial cattle producer would (or could afford to) do that to his cattle on a regular basis is ridiculous. If you've seen a video that suggests otherwise, then the makers of that video are simply lying.

          June 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
        • Farmer's Daughter

          A fistula (which is an access is placed into the side of a cow) is not because the cow is in poor health. It is put in place for one of two reasons 1) for research of digestion so we can better understand the dietary needs of the animals in order to make them healthier and happier or 2) so that feed that is already in the process of being digested that is full of good digestive bacteria can be collected and given to an animal that is sick or been given antibiotics that have disrupted their digestive bacterial populations in order to "jump start" their natural digestive process. Both of these examples are very rare and you should check out your research if you think otherwise. I have never seen any animal on an farm I have ever been on with tubes into it's stomach. Also, it is illegal to feed cattle any mammalian byproducts and if you think Food Inc and Frankensteer are good sources of science-based, unbiased knowledge about agriculture I just ask that you look up the definition of propoganda and then re-watch those films.

          June 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Ally

      Call me crazy, but wouldn't it be cheaper for a farmer to have the cattle graze on grass in the pasture than provide a grain based diet for their entire lives?

      June 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • Frankensteer

        No because there is not enough grass to sustain the cows in such a small location on these huge profit farms.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
        • Ally

          Farther down in the comments the author of this article says that all beef cattle in this country spend at least part of their lives eating grass in pasture. Several other people have weighed in saying their local farmers are doing things right. I grew up in a farming community (not a farmer myself) and I never saw any of the ugly things you mention here happening at any of the farms I spent time at. Judging by your posts the two documentaries you mentioned are likely highlighting horriffic looking events, but if they have footage of it then it must have happened.

          Which one do I believe?

          June 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
      • Frankensteer

        Also Ally, the corn and beef bi products make the cow fatter, which means yummier to most Americans.

        June 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
        • Ally

          I asked you another question, but it's awaiting moderation.

          I really just want to educate myself. I don't believe that every farm keeps it's cattle in lush green pastures all the time and I don't believe that every farm makes it's cattle in a confined space standing in their manure. I'm interested in finding out what percentages of each exist.

          June 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
        • Frankensteer

          Yeah the documentaries are pretty graphic if you get to see them. Some of these cows don't even get to see outdoors. They have an indoor machine that walks the cows around in circles all day.

          June 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
        • Frankensteer

          Yeah the doc ume nta ri es are pretty gr aph ic if you get to see them. Some of these cows don't even get to see outdoors. They have an indoor machine that walks the cows around in circles all day. I'm not speaking for all cattle farmers, of course. But the majority of what we eat gets transported 1,000 miles or more to your plate. The local farmers around here in SoCal have farmer's markets, but if you go to a major grocery store, the beef (especially ground tubed beef) comes from central US. I eat beef, don't get me wrong, but we need to be aware and change our mass-farming techniques out of respect for both human and animal rights.

          June 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
        • Philip

          Frankensteer please be more informed before rambling about a subject, you do not have facts your facts straight. I am a 5th generation cattle feeder / farmer in kansas. All animal by-products were ban from livestock feeds in 1997! We feed ethanol by-products aka corn. A very much health high protein product that is feed with ground hay products along with corn silage, ( corn plant that is cut into fine pieces stored in silo allowed to sit and furment into a highly palitable highly nutrient balance diet that cattle enjoy.

          June 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
      • What?

        Ally, They aren't on a grain-based diet their entire lives. That's what so many fail to realize. The 'scareumentaries' that have been produced to bash "Big Ag" have done a wonderful job presenting misinformation and half-truths to "lead" people to the wrong ideas, not only about beef production, but about food production and processing as a whole. If you'll go through some of the rest of the thread, you'll find a little more information about actual production practices. Frankensteer appears to have gotten most – if not all – of his "information" from these seriously biased sources.

        June 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
        • Ally

          I grew up in a farming community (not a farmer myself) so I'm well aware that there are plenty of farms out there who pasture their cattle for most of their lives. My comment was more asking Frank about the cost cutting he mentioned above.

          As far as the biased videos...that's what bothers me. I'm smart enough to know there is biased information on both sides. My problem is, when I'm honestly just trying to figure out the truth, unless it's an obvious/crazy biased source how do I know what to believe and what to discard?

          June 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
      • Ryan Goodman

        Ally – Thanks for the comment! That's a great question that has many things to consider. I'll add it to my list of topics to respond to. Until then you can search my blog, address is listed at the top of the page. I have many posts from my time working in cattle feedlots and discuss what they are fed. Feel free to send me questions in a direct message.

        June 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
      • Maddee

        Ally,

        Cattle that are raised for meat production are fed concentrates or grain to add the intramuscular fat that give beef its flavor. It would seem like grass would be the way to go, but there is not enough grass to "finish" cattle on in the world. Cattle that are finished on grass take longer to reach an acceptable market weight as well. As cattle age the muscle fibers become larger and tougher, so they are less desirable for consumer tastes.

        Now, don't me wrong, there is lots of grass-fed beef options available on the market. You just have to be willing to pay for the beef (as it takes longer and more resources to produce a pound of beef this way). I would call it an acquired taste to grass fed beef. I personally do not like the taste of straight grass fed beef. I grew up raising purebred cattle, and we would process our own cows. And yes I said cows, due to these cows being old or were unable to produce a calf; we would have the cows "processed". We always put the cows on a grain diet for two weeks prior to being processed, just to add flavor and tenderness into the meat. We also raised "freezer-beef" for neighbors and friends who would buy beef from us. These steers or heifers were fed grass most of their lives, but were kept in a confinement situation and fed a concentrate diet so we could monitor the progress and ensure the quality of beef we were producing. Cattle are just like humans, the more you move the more calories you burn, so cattle in a confinement can move around, but they were not allowed to go wonder the pastures so we could allow them to conserve energy, and use less resources to get them to market weight.

        Getting back to the question of "wouldn't it be cheaper" to finish cattle on grass, grass feeding takes more time and more resources as the various types of grass throughout the country have different protein levels. Cattle also have to be strictly managed on the type of grass they are on, as some grasses are poisonous. I just moved to Missouri from West Texas, and I was raised in Eastern Oregon. The way cattle are managed in each of these parts of the country is totally different. Lush rolling green pastures in Missouri are totally different than pastures in Eastern Oregon. With that cattle that are fed in confinement on a concentrate diet are given a specific ration that is formulated to provide them the essential nutrition that they need at that point in their life cycle. Also, the name of the game is to produce safe, nutritious, and delicious beef that is affordable, so again these cattle are strictly managed for health and what they are consuming to ensure that the end beef product is the best that we can provide to consumers around the world.

        If you have any other questions do not hesitate to contact Ryan or myself (madelinelmoore.wordpress.com).

        Great question, thanks for taking an active part in understanding where and how food is produced.

        June 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • peter

      frank–cnn, fox or any website can shut down their comment sections. Cnn or fox can have a breaking news alert that there are alien ships in the sky when in fact there are none–You might take issue with that but they have a right to say utter nonsense as you or i.

      June 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  15. Frankensteer

    What a nonsense article this is. Nowhere do they mention that these cows are being fed co rn and how this is NOT a part of their natural diet. They also use beef bi prod ucts in their feed as well. Now days our cattle are can nibals. They do this to cut down on costs.

    This practice and cutting corners to save money is EXACTLY why we're getting sick with flesh eating bacteria and E co li. Spinal fluids have been proven over and over again to be causing these illnesses but we STILL continue to use these sick unethical methods of feeding.

    These animals diets are so poor, some of them have external tubes surgically placed into their intestines, so that a human can stick his entire arm into the cow and pull out undigested grain.

    If you don't believe me do the research yourself. There are two really informative documentaries on Netflix about cattle. One is called Food Inc and the other is called Frankensteer. If you want to know the truth, and would rather educate yourself, instead of this feel good nonsense article, watch the documentaries.

    Remember, It's business as usual, and profits will always be more important than ethical farming or human life.

    June 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  16. Naturalista

    My husband and I know our farmer and his family by name. We work at a farm one day a week in exchange for a share of organic vegetables. We know how our produce is grown. We also bought half a pig from a farm and get venison from his uncle. We really like knowing where our food comes from and how it was raised before it got to us.

    I do agree that we need to treat farmers with respect. It's a hard business in a day and age that respects technology over agriculture. I hope that our food systems can some day return to being local and sustainable instead of occurring in industrial feed lots and mass houses of chickens and pigs.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • What?

      I want to preface this by saying that this is not an "argument". It is simply a serious question for legitimate thought, for everybody out there.

      There are over 8 million people living in New York City right now. How could they possibly be fed if all of the food production were "local"?

      June 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  17. James

    I love that bumper sticker I see once in a while–"don't cuss a farmer with your mouth full" !! Farming is the ONLY occupation you can "make a living at"

    June 16, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  18. Brett

    Ryan, thank you for bringing important AG issues to a public forum. You have done amazing things trying to get our story to the people we ultimately serve. This article is anything but fluff. The purpose of this article was not necessarily to inform. It just invites you to be informed. As farmers and ranchers we have much to do to show our consumers about how real agriculture works. That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the overall picture I promise there is more good than bad though. It is people like Ryan that will ultimately be a driving force for a better agriculture in America.

    June 16, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  19. Metron

    Raising cattle is one thing, transporting it to market is another. I've seen the beef handled by truckers. Be careful "y'all."

    June 16, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  20. SmallTimeCattleRaiser

    I feel sorry for WordUpTwo. Her ignorance of the real world is astounding. In Darfur and in many other parts of the world the philosphy is "if it moves it's food". Why doesn't WordUpTwo concern herself with how to bring viable protein to these people? The answer is simple. WordUpTwo is a proud product of an overly-fat society that has given her the CHOICE of being vegetarian. The vast majority of the world's population have no choice and are eating grass and small animals just to survive.

    I respect WordUpTwo's opinions but they are not realistic. Animals will die to feed the population, one way or another. I invite WordUpTwo to join small farmers and ranchers to mitigate the issues she has. Maybe together we can feed some people.

    June 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Sean Brady

      Speaking of ignorance, the article says that a lot of folks do not know how beef gets to our plate. Then it goes on to not tell anything about how beef gets on to our plates. Plus, quite ignorant to believe that all people eat beef. Thank you very little for the ignorant fluff article. The writer has one chance to write an article to the public and there is nothing; where's the beef?

      How can an article about how beef is created miss words like 'pink slime', glued together steaks, feedlot, corn finished, castration, impregnating, downed. Plus, interesting side discussions of veal production, environmental devastation, illegal immigrants working in slaughterhouses, sanitation facilities, mother/calf relations are missing.

      BTW, human milk is 5% protein, and is the perfect food for a human growing the quickest with the highest protein needs they will have in their entire life. The only disease I am aware of for humans with low protein levels is kwashior (I don't know anybody with it including the vegetarian crowd), problems of high protein levels are kidney failure and osteoporosis, I'll let you guess which is a more severe problem in this country.

      Speaking of ignorance, are you implying that the folks in Darfur are cannibals?

      I respect PolyFace Farms, as described in the Omnivore's Dilemma, which is the way beef production should be done. Everyone else who works in the conventional beef production industry is doing it wrong (aka 99% of the industry).

      June 16, 2012 at 10:27 am |
      • Ally

        Wow, Sean...you're kind of all over the place there.

        This article was about inviting people not familiar with farmers to learn. I agree that the headline was a bit misleading. It's obvious you have been sopping up the negative stories about food production by your second paragraph. Hitting all of those topics would have required several articles.

        This article had nothing to do with dairy cattle, so your comment about human milk was off topic. And if you really believe that 99% of farmers who grow beef cattle are doing it wrong it's obvious you have no intention of learning anything.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
        • Sean Brady

          My comment about human milk had nothing do with dairy cattle so I have no idea why you bring it up. My comment was that the human needs for protein are fully satisfied without cattle in our diet; adding cattle and other high protein foods is damaging.

          I still stand by my comment that 99% of the cattle industry is wrong. Similarly (and a similar business), about 99% of the prostitution business is wrong. If prostitution was done the way Nevada in a legal, regulated way, the prostitute and john and pimp would be in better places. Both cattle and prostitution are necessary evils, which are usually done wrong. Just as atheists are the most knowledgeable about specific facts from many religions, I believe those who know the most about the meat industry are in the fringe group. Those who know the most about meat production are either very much anti-, or else making a lot of money on the inside. I know a lot of information about meat production from reading and being aware, mostly from the anti's because I am not in the industry and the cattle industry doesn't do tours of their facilities and doesn't inform the public.

          June 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  21. jd

    This article told me nothing. Thanks for the fluff.

    June 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  22. Dunnyveg

    Having a small cattle operation in Texas myself, I have several points of disagreement with this farmer. While it is true that cattle ranchers are generally humane to their animals, the same cannot be said for factory farmers of chickens and pigs. Many of these animals are confined in small cages for literally their entire lives. I would also question the ethics of the people who run the cattle feed lots. Cattle in feed lots are pumped full of all manner of bad drugs.

    Generally though, farmers are some of the hardest-working, most honest people one can meet.

    June 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  23. gager

    Good article. Division of labor has created the means to wealth but has removed us from some areas of life that are very important. When animals are your life, you tend to have a great deal of respect for those animals. I have never seen farm animals abused.

    June 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • ninime

      The only place I've seen animals abused is at hobby farms where a nonfarmer tries to raise a few animals without knowledge of animal husbandry. Real farmers know what they are doing. It has nothing to do with how large or small the farm is. I've been on a lot of farms, large and small. I've been allowed to walk around freely by myself and take any photos I want. They're not keeping any secrets from me. I've also been in several slaughterhouses. No cruelty there, either. I am not a farmer and I have never worked for "big ag." I appreciate American farmers, big and small.

      June 19, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  24. earlbowden

    This thought just came to me as I saw "got questions?" at the end of your article. Do you know of any cattle farms that allow folks to come and work on their farm, in return for meat or produce after harvest?

    June 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  25. Amy (@KyFarmersMatter)

    I own and operate a USDA Inspected red meat Slaughter & Processing plant. If you wish to connect with me about all things meat, you can find me on twitter. And by connect, I mean you have real honest questions and are not an extremist wishing to waste my time just for the sheer pleasure of it.

    June 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Thanks for checking in Amy!

      ^^This lady is a good source of information about how animals are harvest in a small processing plant and can explain a lot about the meat you eat. She'll tell you like it is and if she doesn't know, she has great resources to find an answer and will learn with you.

      June 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  26. Jguida

    This articles, as others noted, makes it seem like all of our beef is raised in a nice green pasture with beautiful feed. This is simply not true. Caring for your animals doesn't equate to caring about the quality of meat being produced. The numbers of corn fed to grass fed are staggering. I have full respect for farmers but the ones who are essentially assembly line workers throwing corn at the animals is not what I consider a farmer.

    June 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  27. farmgirlconfessions

    Ryan, excellent piece! I greatly appreciate your continued efforts to learn about differing production methods and for sharing them with so many people. You maintain such an open mind to opposing views and are truly an agricultural advocate any of us should look up to. Thank you for being awesome! Keep up the great work!

    June 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  28. SG

    Thank you for writing this article, being a farmers wife and a ranchers daughter it's nice to have someone speaking up for us. Thank you

    June 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  29. Virginia

    Ryan, great article! It's great to have fellow cattle farmers speaking out about the misinformation running rampant about our industry. We hold the care and wellbeing of our animals in the utmost regard, and it really hurts my heart to hear all the nasty comments directed at us. It's hard not to shoot back in anger, but this is a very respectful, well-written piece about how it really is. Keep up the great agvocacy! :)

    June 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  30. Aaron

    I buy my beef from a local butcher, who in turn buys from local farmers here in central ohio.

    There really is no contest when compared with a grocery store. This is partly caused by the storage methods of said grocery stores, though.

    Find a butcher in your area who buys locally. You won't regret it!

    June 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Mary

      We used to work for a farmer who raised cattle. We got meat for part of our wages. It was so much better than what is in the supermarket.

      June 16, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  31. Jack

    Eat steaks and stay away from hamburger.
    A decent tasting steak can't be faked, but most of your fast-food
    burgers are just ground up spent dairy cow heads and hooves.

    June 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  32. Anna K

    Good article! Amazing that the issues that we are dealing with are so similar in Sweden and in the US. It is a true challenge for us that so few customers have real contact with farming and razing cattle! interested in your network for customers to meet farmers – how does that work?
    / farmer in Sweden with beef cattle

    June 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Anna – Thanks for the comment. It's always great to hear from other farmers overseas.

      There are many farmers online, utilizing social media to reach out and connect. Check out AgChat.org to learn more about that or search your social media sites for farmers or ranchers. Feel free to send me a message through the contacts listed at the top.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  33. jeffnf

    Most of my mother's side of the family are farmers. Some of my fondest memories are helping out on my grandfather's farm when I was a teenager. He certainly cared about the animals on his farm, but slaughtering, butchering, and the like was always the fate for the farm animals, so he tried not to get too attached to them. Still, I can't remember many meals being better than fried rabbit which came from a freshly killed and butchered rabbit.

    June 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  34. Cherry Pop

    Good article. I first met farmers in s GA in my 20s. I met ag students who were raised on ranches and farms in Tx. All good people and most willing to talk about anything.

    I think concerns come from articles about sow gestation cages and chicken farms that leave piles of dead foul beside egg layling hens. Some of this is true and some rarely true but few of us have firSt hand experience on farms or ranches. This makes it hard to seperate rare pratices with normal methods. I'd like to know farmer's opinions on heritage seeds and honest assessment (cost and success) of organic raising of cattle and crops. Grocery store level prices tell me a lot but I would like to know if farmers are trying to diversify seed strains and use less antibiotics on cattle or is it just not feasible for large scale production to be successful?

    June 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Cherry Pop – Thanks for the comment and wonderful questions! I have few friends who are organic farmers and some who use heritage seeds and breeds. I'll see if I can't find some information from them on the subject. My contact information is listed at the top, feel free to send me a message with any direct questions.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
      • Andy Hope

        I manage on an organic farm in the UK, we run heritage Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle, sheep, pigs and rare breed chickens, I am willing to answer any enquieries concerning production, welfare regulations etc. Previous experience in the USA and my own ranch in Africa.

        http://www.laverstokepark.co.uk/The-farm.aspx

        June 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • SlowMoneyFarm

      Cherry Pop we use heritage seeds and breeds. Not to take anything away from the information Ryan capably gives, but there ARE farmers out here using a variety of seeds, not one as many would have you believe. Food choices mean farm choices...and what people want there is someone trying to provide it.

      The commercial farmer that grows for many must be concerned with basics – what grows on their farm, what he/she has a paying market for, and what makes it to that market. For those dealing with volume, that means often a no-fuss commercial variety. For others, and for consumers wanting more variety that is possible too! Did you know there are actually more than 3,000 varieties of sweet peppers? There's also about that many hot peppers – yet a handful of those are represented on store shelves because of production and the ability to withstand shipping to you, the consumer. For those wanting choices, there are smaller, heritage/heirloom places like us that do cater to you, and welcome new customers. Here we have Buckeye chickens, the only breed developed by a woman, that traces back over 100 years. We actually have several breeds that do – all produce eggs not that unlike modern confinement hens, but offer choices.

      June 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  35. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I love me some grassfed/grass finished beef! YUM!

    June 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      I love some grass-finished beef as well! It has a different flavor, but that's what makes beef an eating experience. Each steak provides a slightly different experience. Thankful that there are farmers out there for every option.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  36. Tina

    This article does not address the difference between grain-fed and pasture raised cattle. Upon reading this article, one would assume that all cattle in the US is grazing on lush green pastures with a nice family looking out for their well being. Sorry, that is not the case. The vast majority of cattle that are consumed in the US live their lives unnaturally eating grain and confined in a "Centralized Animal Feeding Operation" (CAFO) standing in their own feces up to their knee joints. While we would all love to believe the rosy picture painted by this young author as it makes us feel better about the meat we are buying in the grocery store, it just ain't so! I go one step further than this article. Know your farmer! Visit his farm. I only buy meat and dairy from a small group of farmers that I know and trust. The animals are pasture raised and treated humanely. Don't kid yourself after reading this article and think that most of the cattle processing in this country is ethical – IT IS NOT!

    June 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • What?

      Sorry, Tina. You are vastly uninformed. You need to "meet a farmer" and quit getting your information from the anti-agriculture media. While it is true that most beef animals that go to slaughter in this country are "finished" on a grain-rich diet – with most of that grain being corn, they don't "live their lives" in that situation. Decades of research has shown that beef animals only have to be "on grain" for about 100 days – give or take a few – to effect the change in fatty acids that brings about the "grain-fed" flavor that most in this country prefer. These animals generally are slaughtered at something past 16 months of age. Feeding "grain" is expensive, so there aren't many people who are going to feed grain any longer than they must to get the cattle to "grade".

      In addition to that, "grain-fed" doesn't mean exclusively feeding grain, which many don't seem to understand. These animals still eat copious quantities of grass/hay while they are being "grain fed".

      Oh, by the way, if you think the dairy cattle in the "small group of farmers that I know and trust" aren't being fed grain, chances are almost 100% that you are dead wrong.

      June 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • ker

      it actually suffers from not saying anything at all!

      i was looking to see information on how cattle are humanely killed for our food supply, or how they are housed and treated. the article is all fluff.

      i know about kosher and the rules about treating the animals well. i learned about halal and the Islamic tradition that is similar. but it seems that christians have no morals where killing animals are concerned. i have heard horror stories of chickens being electrocuted, cattle being slaughtered in front of each other, etc. most americans have no clue as to where their food comes from, how it gets to their plates, and this article says nothing about that.

      i live in farm country. i see cows as i drive around every day. i see humane farms, i grew up around them. but the large outlets like walmart, huge grocery chains, and mcdonalds and other large retailers/restaurants source their meat and animal products from inhumane conditions. you are right about knowing who you are dealing with and how their farms are run.

      i wish more americans cared about how the food gets to their plates. i don't suggest anyone instantly become vegan, they just need to insist on humane treatment of the animals whose sacrifice is to be your dinner.

      June 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
      • Tina

        Good way of putting it. This article was total fluff!

        June 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
        • dan

          You miss his point. You can't learn all he has learned in a few sentences.I think he wants us to spend more of our time thinking bout our food and give the farmers some information about what you like and want. He is saying we should be talking to each other. That's what I understood him to be saying.

          June 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • Racheln

        Well said. There is a certain amount of ignorance that most people need in order to eat meat. I have little doubt that if they were involved or even witnessed the process first hand they wouldn't be able to stomach it. I also believe farmers would suffer financially if the truth got out.. I think more people are concerned about how animals are treated these days.

        June 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
      • Ryan Goodman

        ker, thank you for the comment, and I too hope this conversation helps others to gain interest in learning where our food comes from.

        It was very difficult to fit everything I wanted into one post and your concerns I would definitely be willing to follow up on – animal harvest methods. I welcome any messages with direct concerns. My contact information is listed at the top.

        If you want hear more of my thoughts on these issues, I have a large bank of posts at my blog which is listed at the top of the page – http://www.agricultureproud.com

        June 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
        • WordUpToo

          Call it what it IS Ryan, it is KILLING not a "harvest." Mincing words to make it sound less shocking is disingenous.

          June 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
        • What?

          @ WordUpToo – Well, you've made it completely clear where you stand regarding anything "animal" in nature as it comes to agriculture. I'm sure we can all agree that your stance is completely biased and that there is no chance for you to see "the other side" at all. The 'truthfulness' of your comments regarding what actually happens in the process of raising/slaughtering these animals therefore is completely without credibility.

          June 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
        • WordUpToo

          @What? If you were able to think beyond the end of your fork, you might recognize that the folks who come to abhor modern farming practices may have come to their conclusions after witnessing first-hand the horrific & cruel methods involved. To just write me off as non-credible because of the position I have taken is just being blind and the epitome of one-sided. I am not some city-slicker, I grew up with farming in Ohio, was in 4-H for 11 years, worked for a time on a hog and beef farm (owned by a relative Bob Evans, no less). I also had occasion from time to time to perform a service at one of the largest feed lots in Southwest Ohio as well as a large veal operation and again a large slaughter house in the area. I can tell you that cumulatively over time I could not stomach what I witnessed on a daily basis, and THAT is what my position is based on, not some article or some PETA ad.

          So perhaps before you start pecking at your little keyboard, you should ask where someone is getting their information. I too have many stories to tell, just as Ryan Goodman does. But just because mine don't have the happy little endings and feel-good nature that his does do not make them any less personal or any less credible.

          June 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
        • Guest

          Yeah it's killing. We're predatory animals. Predators kill their prey.

          June 17, 2012 at 4:47 am |
      • What?

        In the U.S., federal law (Humane Slaughter Act, 1958) dictates that all animals – from chickens up to cattle – must be rendered unconscious prior to exsanguination (bleeding). Slaughtering an animal following these measures literally results in an animal dying from blood loss/lack of oxygen, which happens while the animal is unconscious. If the first attempt to render an animal unconscious is unsuccessful, the action must be repeated. Kosher and halal slaughter are granted exceptions to this requirement due to the unique requirements of these food codes.

        Chickens typically have been stunned by allowing their combs to drag through a very shallow trough of salt-water while the hackle passes in contact with an electrified buss bar, thereby creating enough current to render the animals unconscious, but not enough to kill them. So they are quite literally shocked, but they may or may not be "electrocuted", depending on your perception of electrocution – if you perceive it to be fatal, then the birds aren't electrocuted.

        Removing the blood from a carcass is the first means of 'preservation' that is applied, as blood is a perfect medium for bacterial growth. For that reason, all slaughter methods are designed to keep the heart beating while the animal is unconscious so that the blood is more completely removed from the carcass.

        June 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
        • What?

          That should be "shackle", not "hackle".

          June 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
        • WordUpToo

          Ugh.

          With all of the great meat alternatives available, why would anyone subject another living, feeling being to something this horrific?

          I'll take my soy with a side of non-violence please.

          June 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
        • What?

          @ WordUpToo – You ever had surgery? What do you think happens then? The patient is rendered unconscious, something is cut on, they bleed, the blood loss is stopped, the cut is closed, the patient regains consciousness, and then there is pain. That's why we have lortab, percodan, etc. The animal never experiences pain after it's rendered unconscious, that's the entire point and the very reason the Humane Slaughter Act was passed.

          You should get out in the "real" wild sometime and see what happens to animals when a predator(s) gets hold of them if you think livestock slaughter is 'inhumane'.

          June 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
        • WordUpToo

          @What? – To equate animal slaughter with human surgery is ludicrous. Yes I have had surgery, but I was not made to stand up to my knees in feces for months or even years prior to, nor fed antibiotics and ground up animal parts first, nor was I goaded with electric prods into a cramped trailer, hauled hundreds of miles in extreme temperatures, sent down a chute to be rendered (hopefully, not always) unconscious with a bolt shot through my head before the procedure. You make it sound like they just go quietly to sleep! So far from reality. Get a clue What?

          June 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
        • What?

          @ WordUpToo – I will promise you that I have had more first-hand experience with this than you have. Your 'allegations' are half-truths, at best. There isn't an animal in this country that has stayed in a "feedlot" for years. If you knew anything about 'grading' and requirements/restrictions for the various grades you would know this. Your exaggeration surpasses hyperbole and gets into the realm of pure delusion.

          Cattle usually are transported in a 'cramped' trailer, that is true – do you have any idea why? It's so that they don't get tossed back and forth in the trailer as it goes down the road with the end result that several of them wind up with broken legs! I'm sure you also know that there are FEDERAL rules that regulate how long the animals can be on the trailers without a break (28 hours)? And I'm sure that you also know that this "break" includes feeding and watering the animals and that it must be AT LEAST 5 HOURS LONG? No, you didn't know that? – I'm not surprised.

          On the subject of extreme temperatures: I don't know too many people who keep their animals in nice, air-conditioned barns during the hot summer months, but I suppose you do? In the winter, the cattle – just like "wild" animals – tend to huddle together to conserve body heat. They will do this inside a barn or outside. Extreme temperatures are extreme whether the cattle are in the pasture or on the road.

          Manure up to their knees? At times, possibly. But that's going to be the norm. There's a big difference between plain old "mud" and "manure", too. If the animals are in a somewhat confined area during a wet seaon, there's going to be mud, and maybe lots of it. This can happen with pastured animals, too, if there's a favorite "hang-out" or the particular field is tight/over-grazed, etc. – and they do have their favorite "hang-outs", much like teenagers.

          June 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
        • What?

          Should be "That's not going to be the norm". (Too much edit on-the-fly.)

          June 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
        • What?

          A note on the subject of electric cattle prods:

          I have dealt with literally thousands of head of beef cattle, in one capacity or another. It is my opinion that probably 75% or more of the time that electric prods are used, they are simply a "crutch" for somebody who either 1) has no idea how to really handle the animals or 2) has decided they don't have time to deal with the animals like they should.

          There are instances where electric prods are very helpful, if not necessary, and these include instances of human safety from a deranged animal. I've never seen but one animal that was truly 'crazy', but he was absolutely "certifiable". Without an electric prod that night, somebody would ultimately have gotten hurt. (He nearly tore down the barn as it was.)

          June 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
        • Guest

          @WordUpToo

          And I'll take my dinner without a side of sanctimony.

          June 17, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • jeffnf

      Then I guess the farmers on my mother's side of the family were/are all in the minority. Every one of their farms had a combination of cattle pastures (for the cattle to roam during the day) and a feed lot/barn for them to eat and sleep at night. And no, there was never enough manure on the feed lot to reach up to the cows' knees. All it takes is a tractor with a front loader on it to clean the feed lot while the cattle were all out in the pasture. I honestly don't think that the vast majority of farmers raising cattle are as evil as you make it out to be. That's certainly not been my experience.

      June 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • WordUpToo

      Now that we have heard the fairytale version, let's hear the rest of the story. The stench and filth of feedlots, cattle living out the majority of their lives on concrete and crammed head to tail while being fattened, long and arduous transportation to slaughter houses where the "humane" methods are rarely such. Yes there might be a number of family farmers still trying to do it the "right" way, but for the most part, your American beef comes from a much nastier and cruel supply chain. Let's hear from one of the industrial BIG AG folks about their methods please, as it has unfortunately become the norm in US beef production. Doesn't take a vegan to see what's wrong with that.

      June 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • Ryan Goodman

        WordUpToo – thank you for the comment and your concerns. True, this post is a positive look at the bright side of raising beef cattle. I have many stories about real things that happen both on my ranch and in feedlots where I have worked. My blog and contact information is listed at the top and I welcome any messages with direct questions or concerns.

        June 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
      • Liberal Elitist

        It does take someone with a level head to see what's wrong with vegans. I'm not sure if you can wedge your head any farther up your holier-than-thou alimentary canal, but I have faith in you. Ever try to rationally evaluate anything without panicking? Miss your meds and forget how to converse normally with people about the topic at hand?

        Yes, slaughterhouses are so contrary to your Walt Disney worldview. Yes, animals die so people can eat them. Know what that's called? Life. Learn to cope with it. Nobody's changing their minds because of your sanctimonious tantrums or your judgmental tirades. In fact, I'm going to barbecue a cow–but only if it used to be someone's pet–in your honor. I shall dine on murder and sing praises to WordUpToo and her traumatic realization that she does not run this cruel, cruel world.

        Mmmmm....red meat. Nomnomnomnomnomnomnomnom

        June 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Tina, thank you for the comment. You raise a valid concern about the difference between feeding cattle a diet of grasses or grains. Truth is all beef cattle are grass-fed – born and raised on pastures. In this country, because of market demands, feeding cattle a finish weight, and looking for a market for excess grains and grain by-products, farmers began feeding cattle to produce heavier carcasses, more quickly. So those cattle being fed in CAFOs may end their life in pens smaller than grass pastures, but did indeed spend most of their life on pasture.

      If you'll note at the end of the post, I did encourage everyone to get to know their farmer and even off to help you find farmers online who may be from your local area.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Ryan Goodman

      Tina, I meant to add.... There are some great farmers out there supplying grass-finished, organic, and natural products for those who want it. That is one of the good things about food and agriculture in this country. We have a choice in what we buy and eat, and we should continue to be able to have that choice.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Stell

      "The vast majority of cattle that are consumed in the US live their lives unnaturally eating grain and confined in a "Centralized Animal Feeding Operation" (CAFO) standing in their own feces up to their knee joints."

      Care to cite a source to back up that claim? You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to make up your own facts.

      June 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Susan

      Actually cattle spend very little time in a CAFO. They are there two to four months to finish out growing on grain. But you already knew that didn't you Tina and just wanted to try to place a black spot on an otherwise very well written report.

      June 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  37. boilermakerag

    Reblogged this on boilermakerag and commented:
    American cattleman and Agvocate Ryan Goodman is making noise on CNN's food blog! He writes a great blog about growing up in agriculture, learning about ag in different parts of the country, and how we all need to work together to create a better understanding between the ag industry and consumers.
    Great job, Ryan! I Am Agriculture Proud!

    June 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  38. Sarah

    Thank you for getting the real and honest story of farmers out to such a wide group of readers! It's about time something true and good is out in the media! :)

    June 15, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • WordUpToo

      Real and honest Sarah? You need to get out a bit more. Here in the midwest (Ohio), the vast majority of beef production is not the happy place that this article describes. I grew up in 4-H and around farming, and the bucolic pastures and comfortable barns of my childhood are unfortunately a thing of the past, replaced with confinement BIG AG feedlots where things just ain't so pretty. I would reckon you can taste their fear and discomfort in every bite of that mass-produced, plastic-wrapped pile of cruelty.

      June 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
      • jenniferdewey

        WordUpToo- I have been involved in the "slaughter" of animals for my entire life. Growing up in a meat shop, being involved in the meat industry, I have gotten many opportunities to tour through many slaughter plants. And yes, I agree, the slaughter of an animal is not something that is "pretty" or something can be easily "glamorized". But having seen what I've experienced, what I've seen, my "behind the scenes" look, I have full confidence in our meat industry today. And yes, I agree with you that we keep a lot of things behind closed doors. I will fully admit that as an industry we can do better! I try my best to provide my customers with transparency. I will show you whatever you want to see, pretty or not! It is also why I support Ryan's encouragement to have a discussion about these issues... Feel free to ask us questions as I see you have many concerns about what it is that I do. When it comes to issues that we are both passionate about, it's easy to put our defenses up. Please take this wonderful opportunity to ask questions. There is also another meat processor that commented with her contact information. Call me biased and dismiss my comments if you'd like, but I know that if I wanted to know more about a surgical procedure, I'd ask my doctor. Why does the same not apply to how our food is produced..?

        June 16, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  39. 3C

    Well said!

    June 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  40. Deanna Campbell

    Thank you for right such a great article. What we have to remember about being in the ranching and farming community that it does us no good to get mad at those who don't know the facts or are presented with the wrong facts. If we can come at them with the intelligence and with the studies than they are less likely to return the anger. Hopefully talking in a calm manner will get these people to listen. Yes there is going to be a large group of them that don't want to hear it. But we still need to keep a level head and present the facts.

    June 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  41. Kelly M. Rivard (@KMRivard)

    Ryan, first off I'd like to congratulate you on being featured on Eatocracy. It's no small feat, and I'm excited for you to find yourself on this forum. Then, I'd like to go on to congratulate you on a well-written, sincere, engaging piece. You are a great example of what an advocate should be; you listen, you communicate, you reflect on the views of others, and you work toward the common good of your cause. I wish more people could be so eloquent and approachable when sharing their viewpoints.

    Here's hoping your article leads to some open, informative, respectful discussions about food. I also enjoy learning alongside passionate and reasonable individuals. Best wishes!

    June 15, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  42. Elizabeth

    Thanks to Ryan for this great article! I think it's amazing that people want to know more about food and production agriculture. It’s good that the general public is starting to ask questions about what’s going on out here in rural America! However, it becomes a problem when those questions are answered by extreme organizations. Farmers and ranchers make up a small community – but we do big things! Thanks for encouraging the conversation!
    I would like to mention a blog that a fellow concerned farmer and I are putting together called "Faces of Agriculture" – our goal is to profile farmers and ranchers – put a face with the product type deal. We are just getting started. We are fired up with ideas and the possibilities on how we can help bridge the gap!

    http://facesofagriculture.blogspot.com/

    June 15, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  43. Kathy

    Wow Ryan. You've inspired me to get to know more about where my food comes from. Thanks!

    June 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  44. Caryl Velisek

    We need to connect with the non-farm public in so many ways. They are bombarded with so much mis-information and blatantly wrong information. Education about agriculture and what it means to us should start in the home and continue in the schools. You can't be a computer technician or a stock broker or even a rock star if you don't have good food to eat, good water to drink and good air to breathe. College degrees will be of no use without these three basics for life. Farmers provide the food and they take good care of the other two. We need to be as vocal as ag's detractors. We have a better story to tell than all of them put together.

    June 15, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  45. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    My grandpa was a farmer. Some of the best memories I have was when I turned 9 in the summer of 1990, I spent the summer with him in South Dakota. Riding the tractor, chasing cows, stepping in cow chips, growing corn and soybeans, trapping gophers and racoons, tending the garden, eating apples of the tree, fresh horse radish straight out of the back yard, etc.. I was in charge of mowing the lawn, on a Forest Gump Snapper riding mower.

    Good times, RIP.

    If I could be a farmer, I would be. The only thing about it is the complete financial uncertainty. A string of bad summers can nearly ruin you. Sure, there's insurance policies for that but you pretty much break even. Sort of like living paycheck to paycheck. But, as any gardener can tell you, it's very rewarding.

    June 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  46. Janice aka JPlovesCOTTON

    Nice to see CNN embrace various viewpoints on the eatocracy blog! Having met Ryan a few times, I would say he fit my stereotype for ranchers - honest, hard-working, and soft-spoken. The fact that more and more of the people in agriculture are making themselves available to others is a great advancement that social media enables.... Ryan can be on horseback in a pasture somewhere and still tweet.

    June 15, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  47. GoBrangus

    Thank you, Ryan for a great and accurate account of the farmer's/rancher's perspective. The public has different views and opinions, but they should all be educated opinions. Thanks for being a great representative and educator!

    June 15, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  48. Kathy Hasekamp

    Wonderful piece, it gave me goosebumps. I am proud to be a farmer's wife and the mother of future apriculturalists. I thank God everyday to be a part of something so important. I pray that the general public sees the light that by supporting extremist groups they are literally cutting off the hands that feed them. Keep up the good fight Ryan, we are behind you all the way!!!

    June 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • strategicstl

      Farmers represent great values. But we have done a terrible job explaing what farming does or is. You can't grow non-dirty carrots by definition. A sow gestation crate may actually be a kindness. Sure it looks cramped. Give the sow more room. She doesn't want to move around much! Open the crate. She doesn't leave to join essentially pushy pack animals. They were created first by veterinarians! But you know, we need to understand the sentiment of folks who may mean well (many in this thread) but just don't know. The pictures they have in their heads are the problem. We need to match feelings with feelings and facts. But we can't just puke data on them. Until they feel the pride of the American farmer, it will be hard to convince them the farmer really knows best much like the vet knows best much like their doctor knows best. Hmmmm

      June 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Timothy

      UM. it really isnt necessary to be fed by slaughterg cows. We dont really need that kind of protein. I can get all that with whole wheat, nuts, etc....

      December 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  49. virginiawillis

    Awesome post. Ryan, thanks for sharing and Kat and Sarah, thanks for bringing this POV to light.

    June 15, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  50. Truth™

    Why do I get the feeling that this is going to become a vegan inspirad bloodletting fairly quickly.

    Tell me Kat, you are a closet sadist, right? Or maybe just bored on a Friday?

    June 15, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Yep.

      June 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Sir Biddle@truth & Jdizz

      Standby for the vegan bloodletting on the upcoming "Subway Offers New Vegan Options" article predicted to come soon.

      June 15, 2012 at 10:45 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Mmmm. Makes me hungry for Subway. Meatball marinara with pepperjack cheese, banana peppers, jalapenos, onions, bell pepper, oregano, and spicy mustard.

        BRB

        June 15, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Sean Brady

      Vegan bloodletting? Are you referring to Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao losing his title a week ago to that vegan kid?

      June 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
      • Jacqui

        Good for you Ryan, presenting agriculture with a positive spin . There needs to be more people like you in agriculture, worldwide. We are beef and lamb producers in Australia and it seems that we have the same urban disconnect that you obviously have in the USA.
        The cold, hard facts are that farmers/ranchers raise animals to be killed for human consumption. It doesn't mean that the animals have terrible lives. In fact, our stock run out in pastures all year round – clean, green, fresh pastures in the open air. We don't pump them full of chemicals – they have one drench/year and a (natural) mineral based treatment. We spend time with them – desensitising them to dogs, motor bikes and the like, making them very easy to handle which in turn, makes them far less likely to be stressed. When they have grown out, they're mustered, trucked to an abattoir and killed. I have been through an abattoir – it's not pretty but it's part of the cycle. You see life and death every day on the farm.
        I respect the vegans and vegetarians' choice not to eat meat. What I don't respect, is the holier-than-thou attitude of them declaring that no-one should be allowed to eat meat.
        The disrespect shown to farmers in recent times has been soul destroying but it obviously is not a problem only in Australia. Our entire northern cattle industry was shut down last year in a knee-jerk reaction to a vegan animal liberationist who went to Indonesia (our neighbour and large importer of Australian beef) and filmed ONE steer being mistreated.
        These northern cattle stations are run on very slim margins and most of them went without income for nearly a year. The Australian government doesn't subsidise farmers – we're on our own over here. We don't get low or interest-free loans. We pay commercial rates.
        All the city dwellers seem to see is the large landholdings, the infrastructure and equipment needed to run a farm and get the impression that we're all incredibly wealthy. They don't take into consideration that most farms return a profit of less than 3% of assets.
        We have a weekend in Australia where farmers all over the country, volunteer to throw open their gates to have city people visit to see how their food and fibre is produced. Only in it's infancy, it has been growing in popularity as more and more city people are become interested in where their food comes from.
        I encourage all of you who live in the cities – don't blindly believe the propaganda generated by the animal liberationists about where your food comes from. Make an effort to get to know a farmer and see for yourself. It may not be as bad as you think.

        June 18, 2012 at 11:18 am |
        • burlington11

          OK .. nice try there Jacqui. Actually it IS that bad. First of all, nobody is going to believe the countryside is full of happy pastures with grazing cows .. Everybody knows facory farms are how cattle are raised, brought to slaughter weight in record time, and killed. Also, If anybody here believes you need to eat meat to get enough protein, they are very uneducated and truly hopeless. Any registered dietician in north america will tell you that even vegetarians have at least twice the protein a human body actually needs. Meat eaters have up to 4 times what they need. I am not a vegan or vegetarian, but I do eat less meat because it has been proven time and time again a diet which consisting of too much meat will cause heart disease, cholesterol, obesity, increased risk of stroke, the list goes on. It is clear people here do not educate themselves on how to look after themselves. Anybody who hasn't lived under a rock knows today's cows have never even seen a blade of grass. They are pumped full of antibiotics (no normal animal could survive the disgusting conditions of a factory farm without them) and hormones, and contaminated grain. People still wonder why they get obese and end up with cancer. Truthfully, if you can eat all that junk, you should be ready to face the consequences. (I keep my meat to a minimum and try to always buy organic.. if you cant afford organic, maybe you would rather spend the money on medical bills and cancer treatments.. because that`s part of the package)

          June 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
        • What?

          @burlington11 –

          This looks like it could be fun . . . .

          "Anybody who hasn't lived under a rock knows today's cows have never even seen a blade of grass."

          OK, now, – 1 word, five letters _ D _ _ T – would you like to buy a vowel?

          June 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
1 2 3
Pinterest
 
| Part of
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,646 other followers