Life and Death on the Farm

By on Apr 23, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

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“Do you process your cows on your farm?” The answer is, “Not if I want to sell the meat.” All meat we sell has to be processed at a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspected facility. The critter has to walk, not be carried, into the processing facility and must be observed by a USDA inspector before it is processed.

We have processed cattle on our farm but, by USDA law, we cannot sell that meat. We can eat it ourselves but we can’t sell it. The USDA is a branch of the US Government and is run by the Secretary of Agriculture who sits on the US President’s Cabinet. USDA was started in 1862 by President Lincoln and has helped farms for over 150 years. Most farmers I know have received financial help from the USDA and it is possible many farms are in business today because of help from the USDA. From my perspective, the USDA is a good organization. I’m not so sure about the USDA processing requirements.

Cattle are social animals and are comfortable in pastures they know. They don’t like change. We have processed a few steers, for our own consumption, on our property. This process is not stressful for the animal. The animal is here one minute, then gone. I think I’m the only one who is stressed. It’s hard to see an animal you have watched grow, have cared for and worked with pass on. It’s always hard, never easy. I tell myself that the animal had a purpose, he lived a good life and now it’s time to help nourish the rest of us. For years I was a vegetarian. Factory farm raised beef appalled me. It’s only when I raised my own animals that I started to eat meat again.

Painless, a Scottish Highlander bulll

Sending Painless, the bull, off the farm for processing was a hard but a necessary decision. A farm can only have so many bulls. Photo by Carole Soule Miles Smith Farm

It’s important that each and every animal we process is “here one minute, then gone,” without stress and pain. In my opinion, animals processed on the farm where they were raised is the least stressful option. USDA rules prohibit that, so the next best option is finding a humane USDA processing facility. There are several within a two-hour drive of our farm. Typically we deliver the animal to the facility the night before processing so they can settle in during the night. The next day they are gone and two weeks later we get packages of cryovaced meat.

Every farmer that raises livestock for meat has to regularly decide which animals to process. It’s never easy but wouldn’t you rather know your meat has been given the best life possible before becoming the steak on your plate? You can help those local farmers by making hard decisions yourself. Don’t just look at the price of that steak, think of the life it led, think of the farmer who cared for it. Choose local and even though that animal was processed off the farm you’ll know it lived a good life.