Food Matters

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

I’m just back from my first ever long road trip in the US. I’d previously done New York to Florida, but it was over a number of days with stops in many places. This trip was a drive as far as you could, rest and drive again type.

While I was totally impressed and in awe of the size, variety and sheer beauty of the land in places, I was surprised, disappointed and concerned about other aspects of the journey and what I saw. I suspect like many people, I still carried the romantic notion that out there in the Texas flatlands were thousand upon thousand of cattle, roaming free, feeding on the planes grass, being rounded up by cowboys and herded based on the season. I was prepared to make some concessions, like most of the cowboys riding 4×4’s but nothing prepared me for what I saw.

What I saw in numerous locations along I-10W, there were thousand upon thousand of cows penned up in pens close to the road. Mostly standing around in what looked and smelt like their own waste, in temperatures that were exceeding 95f. There wasn’t just one place where the cattle and pens were present, but dozens along the ride between east of El Paso TX and Yuma, AZ. I guess like everything, even cattle in Texas has become a factory process in recent years. According to a Feb. 2009 USDA report, there are some 418,000 cattle in Texas, 338,000 in New Mexico, and 186,000 in Arizona. Who knew? Just sayin…

The Progressive Dairy web site has an interesting insight into the cattle “industry”.

In the interests of transparency, I’m NOT a vegetarian, I enjoy a nice steak and eat ‘burgers from time to time.

6 Comments so far

  1. Tim (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

    You sure those weren’t holding pens? I know there’ve been a lot of cattle sold this year due to the drought.
    I think most cattle are still roaming free. The ag tax exemptions set it up so that even retiring boomers have an incentive to lease their lands for cattle grazing.

  2. triman on September 22nd, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    Tim, I’m not sure they weren’t holding pens. Although given the size of the pens and the number of animals, I doubt it.

    I hadn’t meant to imply that there was anything really wrong with what I saw. I had expected though to see at least many cattle roaming on the north side of I10W, I saw almost none. Instead just these massive pens, and many of them, on the South Side.

  3. Ken (unregistered) on September 24th, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

    What you witnessed were feedlots.

  4. LazySmurf (unregistered) on September 28th, 2009 @ 11:48 am

    It saddens me that you could see that and say “I hadn’t meant to imply that there was anything really wrong with what I saw” there is something very wrong with this scenario. It is sad that most people think that the cows they eat are happily munching away on grass in wide open fields all day. That is so far from reality at this point. Please inform yourself on these topics so that you can make more responsible decisions.
    Here are some articles that can help

  5. triman on September 28th, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

    I agree, there is a lot wrong with our food chain. The scale of this is what really has me thinking about it. Thanks for your comments.

  6. Tim (unregistered) on September 28th, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

    It’s a difficult problem. We can’t grow enough food to feed the world using organic means, and we don’t particularly like the horrible conditions that factory farming has led to. It’s not an issue of meat vs. vegetables either. Our produce is grown in pretty bad conditions also, and uniformity is valued over taste (which is a pretty good indicator of quality of life over factory efficiency).

    We’ll probably need to keep revisiting this issue.

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