Animal Welfare–The Great Sea of Confusion!

When I learned that I was pregnant with my first child, I went looking for information on pregnancy.  I’ll never forget standing in a book store in Omaha open-mouthed and shocked at how many different books existed on the topic.  I was completely overwhelmed and left the book store without making a purchase.

A couple of weeks later I asked my doctor for suggestions on what books to read.  She gave me a great book that I read throughout my pregnancy.  I learned an important lesson that day—when you do not know anything about a topic, it is best to look to someone who is knowledgeable for help…

I seem to rarely be without an animal at my side–whether it is a horse or a bovine at the feed yard, or a dog or a cat at my home…

I think that the topic of animal welfare can be incredibly complex.  Many, many diverse groups and individuals have thoughts on the subject and, as a result, even getting a simple universal definition of the term is challenging.  If you were to Google the term, you are likely to get a landslide of confusing and sometimes conflicting information on the topic.

As convoluted as the term animal welfare can sometimes be, I think that the idea of good animal care is incredibly important.  I love animals. They have always played a pivotal role in my life.  Growing up I was surrounded by dogs (my dad is the ultimate dog lover), and we spent the weekends hunting for quail and ducks on ranch pasture ground about 60 miles from our home.

My brother and I, many years ago with the quail that Christie (the dog) pointed and our parents shot.  My mom makes a wonderful quail dinner…

Until I arrived in Nebraska in 1997, I personally knew of two types of animals—pets and wild game animals.  As I went to work at our cattle feed yard, I began to learn about a third type of animals:  food animals.  While I have always been an omnivore, up until that point I knew very little about raising food animals on a farm.

Fortunately, as I went to work at our feed yard, I was successful in finding good people and good information which helped me to learn appropriate care and welfare relative to this new type of animal.  It was during this transition that I began to look at the topic of animal welfare from a new perspective—from the eyes of a caregiver of food animals.

Understanding them,and understanding the goal of safe and healthy food makes me a good caregiver…

When I look back at the last 16 years, there is one program and one individual that have consistently guided me in my search to offer high quality and appropriate care to my cattle.  The program is the Beef Quality Assurance Program, and the individual is veterinarian and rumanint nutritionist Dr. Dee Griffin.  I met Dr. Griffin only a few weeks after I moved to Nebraska. His passion for “doing things right” motivated me to search for greatness on my farm—Something that I still do each and every day.

A great man—Dr. Griffin has dedicated his life to understanding good cattle welfare and mentoring others in their search to humanely raise cattle and produce high quality beef.

I am going to take a series of posts to talk about Beef Quality Assurance, and I have enlisted Dr. Griffin to help me in this journey.  I hope that by the end, you all will feel more comfortable and more knowledgeable about animal welfare relative to cattle and the production of beef.  Please feel free to ask questions—I don’t want any of you to have the same puzzled and overwhelmed expression on your faces as I did all those years ago standing in a book store looking for someone to help me through what appeared to be a great sea of confusion!


Filed under Animal Welfare, General

8 responses to “Animal Welfare–The Great Sea of Confusion!

  1. You’ve hit on something important just in acknowledging the category of “food animals” alone.

    So many folks won’t acknowledge that some animals exist only because people eat them. If you don’t acknowledge that fact, its really hard to properly address or debate the issue of animal welfare.

    You and I are on different parts of the spectrum in regards to our farming styles, but I think people even further to the left of my views who want to remove the whole category of food animals altogether don’t realize how hard it would be to farm sustainably without them. I couldn’t farm the way I do without poop!

    Looking forward, thanks!

    • I am so glad to hear from you Slow Foods Mama! I know that you bring a different perspective to the conversation of growing food, and I am grateful that you are participating.

      I am really looking forward to this series of posts because they hit so closely to my own heart. Good animal care and BQA are such a core part of who I am and how I raise beef, and it will be great to share that part of myself and my farm.

      You are correct, “food animals” need to be designated in their own category when discussing animal welfare because they are truly unique—not only do we have concern for their welfare, but there is an equally important concern for food safety b/c they are grown expressly to produce food.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • This is also very timely for us folks up here in Canada – as I’m sure you’ve probably heard, we just went through the biggest beef recall in Canadian history (due to sloppy processing, not poor animal husbandry) and it has got more of the general population asking questions about where their beef comes from. Made me realize just how little most people know about it.

        I really value you sharing this, because although I advocate a different way, the fact is for the majority of people, pasture raised organic beef isn’t an option. (Heck, it isn’t an option for ME that often, that’s why I eat so much chicken! ) We can’t address the issue of animal welfare by all becoming Vegans (don’t tell PETA I said that). It’s not realistic. We need to start by doing better where we are, with what we have, and I think that’s what you’re onto.

        Good luck with this – these sorts of topics always bring out the ah – passion? in people . . .


      • “We need to start by doing better where we are, with what we have, and I think that’s what you’re onto.”

        Yes, Stacey–you are so astute and so correct.

        Thank you for understanding,

  2. Scott Barker

    Grateful that you’ll be writing about this subject for our benefit. I’ll be staying tuned!

    • Scott,

      Thanks for reading—glad that you are excited about this set of posts. It is a very important topic for all of us—whether we grow food animals, or simply purchase meat to feed to ourselves and our families—it touches all of us.


  3. Clint Kaasa

    I just came across your blog last week and really enjoy it. Looking forward to your BQA series of posts. I grew up on a ranch and respect what cattle do for us as forage harvesters and food animals.

    • Clint,

      I am so glad to hear that you are following the blog and looking forward to this series. I look forward to having you participate in the conversation!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


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