"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
April 09, 2015
Meat is Justice
by Hannah Bird

Editor's note: Hannah Bird is battling yet another case of pneumonia. Meanwhile, we are running this column, which originally ran on December 20, 2012.


One of the most common comments I get when people find out that we raise beef is, "I could never eat an animal that I had raised." I think I understand the sentiment. They picture grassy hills and sweet cows grazing contentedly. They think of calves frolicking in wide-eyed wonder as they play in fields of flowers. They picture tender hours of helping newborn calves to be born safely. They picture bottle feeding bum calves. And that all does sound lovely.

But it has very little to do with farming. You can tell because in none of those scenarios is poop the primary issue to be dealt with. The major product of any animal operation is manure, if we manage to get a little beef out of it as well then we will have just enough money to try to go broke on the whole proposition again next year. In the meantime, well-meaning people worry about the moral ramifications of eating meat.

Luckily for you, I am here to help.

Darwin made some fairly compelling arguments about survival of the fittest and the overwhelming drive of a species to survive. It all sounds good on paper but then, he wasn't contending with Holsteins. For the past five years, we have run mostly Angus/Holstein crosses. We have had a few doe-eyed jerseys and a red steer that was shockingly ugly. But mostly we have Holstein-plus-somethings. So I can tell you conclusively - Holsteins have one purpose in life. They wake up every morning to see how they are going to die.

This would make more sense if Holsteins were being routinely hunted in their peaceful pastures. But people spend a great deal of time and money trying to not kill Holsteins needlessly. Luckily, these cows are such committed fatalists that the lack of danger or actual deadly situation is no hindrance to their species-wide death pact. Nothing actually has to be wrong. They just know they are going to die.

To illustrate, I have made a brief schedule of the average Holstein cow's day:

5 AM: Wake up.

5:01 AM: Wonder if I am on the ground because I am dead.

5:05 AM: Get up, wonder if it is going to kill me.

5:30 AM: Decide that since I have not yet died, I am hungry.

5:35 AM: Go to the feeder where I will most likely die.

5:40 AM: Eat because I don't want to die hungry.

7:40 AM: Decide that death is not coming while I am eyeballs deep in alfalfa and wander into the field to face my imminent demise.

7:41 AM: Step on a rock and stumble ever so slightly. Fall down since I must be dying.

7:45 AM: Roll my eyes back in my head and bellow a lot. Death throes should be impressive.

7:55 AM: Watch the farmer come stand over me while I die.

7:56 AM: Lie there like the giant slab of brisket that I am while she coaxes me to get up.

7:57 AM: Begin thrashing wildly since she is obviously trying to kill me.

7:58 AM: Fight all of her attempts to push my legs under me so I can get up. Clearly, that will kill me.

8:20 AM: Freak out because she has gotten the rope and is tying it to things in an attempt to kill me.

8:21 AM: Do some additional thrashing and bellowing while lying on the cold ground that is clearly going to be the death of me.

8:29 AM: Take a quick shot at kicking the farmer in the head. I don't want to die alone.

8:45 AM: Watch farmer go back up to the house. Cry because she is leaving me here to die.

9:00 AM: See the farmer approach with a nice bottle of warm sweet liquid that I love. Obviously she is redoubling her efforts to kill me.

9:10 AM: Thrash. Thrash the last thrashes I will ever thrash.

9:15 AM: Refuse the delicious mixture that will make me feel better and warm me up despite the fact that I am dying.

9:25 AM: Farmer attempts to brutally murder me with nourishment.

9:29 AM: Try to kill farmer a little bit by thrashing sledge hammer-like head into her delicate cranium while she is tenderly squirting yummy medicine in my mouth.

9:35 AM: Watch farmer get the drench tube. I knew it. She's trying to kill me.

9:38 AM: Additional thrashing, half-hearted murder attempts.

9:45 AM: Step up the murder attempts. Manure just got real.

9:58 AM: Feel slightly less die-y.

10:15 AM: Enjoy nice pre-death massage from farmer.

10:30 AM: Wiggle leg.

10:35 AM: Remember I never liked this part of the field and decide, if I am going to die it isn't going to be here.

10:38 AM: Get up

10:40 AM: Eat delicious bunch of alfalfa from the farmer's hand. What a nice lady. I will miss her when I die.

10:40 AM: Walk to prettier part of pasture. Lie down and take a nap before I die.

Repeat.

It is true that there are sweet doe-eyed calves. It is also true that I really love all of my big dumb cows. There is an earnestness to their fatalism that makes it hard not to feel at least a little warmly towards them. In fact I have been so irrationally attached to the mooing crowd that I once named a newborn calf, "Bliss". This was unfortunate since it doesn't suit her quite as well as "I Run Through Fences and Chase Neighborhood Bulls Like a Hussy In-Between Trying to Kill Everyone You Hold Dear While Eating Your Peonies." That was my second pick. There is no getting around it. We do love the cows.

But when it is 10 degrees below zero and you have just busted your knuckles open as you try to drench tube a cow that thinks she is dying because she slipped on ice, nothing sounds better than steak. I have absolutely no problem eating a delicious plate of justice after a blood-soaked, manure-covered day with a cow.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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