Raising Cattle To Make Beef...

The most frequently asked question that I receive from urban dwellers is, “How can you take care of animals for several months and then send them off to be killed?”  Quite honestly, this is a question that I ponder regularly as I think about why I believe that it is an admiral vocation to raise food animals.

My cowboy and I will put this steer “on the bus” to go to harvest this afternoon…

I believe that I am a person of great compassion, and I spend each day trying to use the abilities that I was blessed with to be a positive contributor to my community and my country.  I care very deeply about the people and the animals that fill my life.  When I crawl into bed at night, the last thing that I ask myself is, “did I make a difference today?”

This great group of kids brought a smile to my face week after week. I hope that I have touched their lives as much as they have touched mine…

Last week, someone asked me why my blog is so personal in nature.  The simple truth is that my family and my farm are so intertwined that I would struggle tremendously if I tried to separate them.  I am an American—I am a wife—I am a mother—I am a cattle farmer.  I wear many different hats, all at the same time.  Who I am and what I believe in play a pivotal role in what I do each and every day.

If you look carefully on the track, I am the one in the bright pink shirt and hat—I was a “support runner” for my daughter Megan. Here we are completing the last 800 meters of the 1/2 marathon that we ran together over the past couple of weeks. Megan is in the green shorts and white t shirt striding ahead to “finish strong”!

Here I am checking the health of my cattle at the feed yard…I “support” them too.

So, if I care—if I feel compassion, how can I send my animals to death?

The sole reason that my cattle feed yard exists is to raise cattle to make beef.  My cattle were brought into this world for the purpose of contributing to our country’s food supply.  While I believe that it is my moral obligation to provide good care to every animal on my farm, I also recognize that my cattle exist solely to produce food.

I know that each time that I bring cattle onto my farm, that their next destination will be the packing plant.  That is the reality, and it is one that I am comfortable with.  Quite honestly, spending my days caring for those animals gives me a greater appreciation for the food that I put on my dinner table.  When I look at the steak or the hamburger that I am serving to my family, I know that an animal has been sacrificed to provide this food.

This steer also shipped to harvest today…His beef will feed many people…

I carry a great appreciation for the animal that gave his life to feed my family.  I also feel tremendous pride that my hard work enabled that animal to grow, flourish, and produce healthy and great tasting food.

This is the goal…

There is absolutely no way that I could be a cattle farmer and not believe that it is ethical to raise food animals—As a person of compassion and feeling, I could never separate myself to the extent that I could spend my days caring for cattle if I did not believe that raising those animals for food production was an admirable vocation.

Up at the feed bunk and eating breakfast (while also curiously watching me take their picture)…

I recognize that my cattle are sentient beings—I know that they feel and I do my very best to ensure that they are comfortable and well cared for while they are on my farm. I also know that prey animals (like cattle) live in the present and have no concept of the future.  Because of this, I (and my packing plant partners) are able to devise a system at the harvest facility so that the cattle do not suffer when their life ends for the production of food.

I eat this meal with both gratitude and a sense of personal pride…

I send my animals to harvest knowing that I have done my best to offer good care to them.  This fulfills my goal of  producing safe and healthy beef.  I am thankful for the food that they provide me, and I am proud to be able to turn the natural resources that our farm is blessed with into a great tasting and healthy protein source.

Anne Burkholder

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