In order to be a rancher, you have to love what you do. After all, the job requires a lot of physical labor and working outside in all weather conditions. It’s also a very unpredictable profession, as such diverse and unpredictable factors as weather, politics and world events can be the difference between a profitable year and a disastrous one.
I believe it’s the love of cattle, working intimately with nature and the rural lifestyle - which is great for raising a family - that keep ranchers in the business. Ranchers experience first-hand the joy and accomplishment of working with the seasons and watching new life arrive each calving season, stewarding those calves to grow up healthy and strong, and tending to the mama cows season after season. At the end gate, ranchers also appreciate the circle of life, and understand the fact that beef cattle are grown to harvest grass and forage on untillable land, converting it into highly nutritious meat products. Their bodies also provide a multitude of useful byproducts that enrich human lives.
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A rancher would never confuse a pet, such as his trusty cow dog, with his cattle, which are food animals. Unfortunately, however, many consumers don’t draw that same distinction, and that kind of perspective can present some tough challenges for meat producers.
A few years ago, it was “fluffy cows” that drew a lot of nationwide attention on social media, not only among the show ring crowd but general consumers as well. I regarded that episode as a good opportunity to showcase 4-H kids, farming families, and livestock to an interested audience. Sadly, I think many of our consumers just regarded those fluffy cows as life-sized teddy bears.
This trend of thinking of cows as cute and cuddly overgrown pets has continued. For instance, BuzzFeed has showcased plenty of articles featuring cattle, including some great ones that educate consumers about beef and ways to prepare it. There are also some not-so-good examples, however, that promote the notion that cattle are not food animals and are too cute to eat.
Recently, a BuzzFeed staffer, Kaelin Tully, posted an article entitled, “17 reasons cows are the actual champions of cuteness.”
Tully writes, “Moooove over cats and dogs. There are some new cuties in town.”
She listed 17 photographs of cows -- everything from show heifers cuddled up at a fair, to people getting sloppy kisses from calves, to little kids bonding with the bovines.
Admittedly, I enjoyed the photographs, as I have plenty of similar ones of myself as a kid growing up around cattle. However, what troubled me was the comments section.
Readers wrote things like, “I don’t think I can eat beef anymore after seeing this,” “This page gave me more of a reason not to eat beef,” and “I haven’t eaten meat in over a decade, and this is why. They want to enjoy life, too.”
One rancher did add his two cents saying, “I do like cattle. Sometimes it’s tough to say goodbye to the ones that really seem to connect with me, but such is the life of a grass farmer.”
This is a good opportunity to balance out the conversation with our own testimonies. If you would like to add your thoughts, you can find the article here.
I would love to share a more realistic look at cattle, and we’ve compiled some great galleries over the years of kids, cattle, calves, and ranch life. Here are four of my favorites:
Feel free to share your favorite photo galleries on social media today to help showcase a more realistic picture of cattle and their role, as well as the ranchers who care for them.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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