No torture. No terrorizing. No single stalls.

“These animals are terrorized, tortured, and in the case of beef, enclosed in a single stall their entire life.”

This was from a comment I saw on an article regarding Safeway’s decision to stop selling lean finely textured beef (dubbed pink slime) in its stores. I’m not a meat scientist so I can’t speak with any type of authority on the pink slime debate. (Here’s a great collection of articles directly addressing the pink slime issue.)

However I am a rancher’s daughter, and I have been involved in the beef cattle industry for a long time. So it is from both personal experience and a lot of observation that I say ranchers do not terrorize or torture their animals, and cattle are not enclosed in a single stall for their entire lives.

A Look at a Cow’s Life
On our cow-calf ranch, the mama cows are kept on pasture year-round. We manage our breeding season so the cows have calves in the spring. Many ranchers do the same, but some calve in the fall. Others leave the bulls in with the cows all the time and have a continuous calving cycle.

During the winter the cowherd is brought in closer to headquarters for more attentive care during the harsh weather and in preparation for calving. Growing up in Iowa, there’s plenty of snow and no grass through the winter months so daily deliveries of hay to the cows are needed. The cold temperatures and nasty weather (usually!) require constant monitoring when the baby calves start hitting the ground. Yep, even in the middle of the night.

All the pairs (mama cows and their baby calves) are turned out on grass pastures for the summer and fall. We turn the bulls out with the cows at this time as well so the mamas can get pregnant again. Depending on the year, the calves are weaned from their mamas around October and brought home.

Some calves are sold straight off the cow, but we have always backgrounded our own calves. We keep them on an acreage and feed grain and hay until the next spring. As yearlings, these calves are sold at the livestock auction, usually to feedlot buyers. The calves are then finished at a feedlot for a few months until ready for slaughter.

Not all calves are sold to a feedlot. We keep the best heifers as replacement mama cows for the cowherd. Sometimes people keep a few head to feed out for private sale or to provide beef for their own families.

There are also grass-fed beef cattle herds, certified organic and purebred herds. How things are done will vary depending on location, equipment, business model, etc.

Terror and torture?
How does it make any sense for a rancher to terrorize and torture the cattle? There is nothing positive that comes from that. Even if a rancher didn’t care about his or her animals – and they do, very much – from a pure business standpoint, mistreating animals is a no-win proposition.

Animals under stress don’t gain weight/maintain condition as well. They are more difficult to handle, damaging to equipment and can be a danger to be around. All those things negatively impact the bottom line of profit.

There are a few bad apples. Cattle ranching is not immune to the shady characters that pop up in every sector of business. If you know of a bad apple, report it immediately to the authorities.

Just a Snapshot
This is just a quick snapshot of cattle ranching. I could talk for days about all the time, money and effort that goes into caring for a cow-calf herd. Kinda makes this blog post seem a little puny, but I wanted to share the truths of my family’s cattle ranch.

No torture. No terrorizing. No single stalls.

A lot of hard work. A lot of long days. A lot of good times.


  1. Thanks for a great post, Erica!

  2. Excellent blog! I actually had a conversation with a couple of my mom’s friend’s not too long ago. They thought cattle were raised in feed lots! It was a great opportunity for me to teach them and they were actually very surprised by how well the industry takes care of cattle and felt a lot better about eating beef in the future.

    • Way to take the opportunity and share about how cattle are really raised, Natalie! I am guilty of not seeking those opportunities out in my daily life, and I’m trying to do a better job of that.

  3. Nicely said.

    The *only* time a cow is subjected to the “torture” of being in a single stall on our place is when she is brought in because of weather, or in the case of our heifers–they’re brought in so she can learn to be a good Mama.
    Fresh water, hay, and bedding is put in her stall–and she has plenty of room to turn, walk, and lie down without hurting her calf.

    I dare–and I mean dare–anyone to come on to our place (Your place sounds the same) and find an instance where I am terrorizing, or torturing my cows, calves, or bulls. As you said so well: it doesn’t pay. If the misinformed want to categorize me as a money-grubbing animal profiteer–that’s their business. But my business is animals, and mistreated, abused animals are dangerous, unhealthy, and unprofitable.

    When my cows follow me around the pasture cause they know they’ll get their heads scratched…kinda tells you they don’t fear that I’m about to terrorize or torture them.

    • Thanks, Ty! I appreciate hearing how you handle your cattle. Sounds similar to my family’s. We can gather most of our cows just by driving through the pasture with the pick up. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Leave a comment: