Benny Had a Good Life…

Likely the most often asked question by my non-farming friends is “How can you care for animals for long periods of time and then send them to their death?”

I love animals.  I love spending time around them, and I enjoy the daily interactions that go along with their care.  To be a caregiver is both a responsibility and an honor, and I am thankful to play that role. The answer to the above question exists amidst my own philosophical belief that different types of animals hold different types of purposes…

  • The stray dog that showed up one day at the feed yard lives in my house and falls under the category of “pet”.
  • The horses that live in my back yard are supposed to fall under the category of “work animal” (but likely trend closer to ‘pet status’).
  • The cattle that live at my feed yard are “food animals”.

I care for all of them with the same set of values as that is my God-given duty, but the actions of care that I provide differ depending on the animal’s purpose.   

Cattle exist to turn non-edible resources (like grass) into products that people need: a nutrient dense protein source, leather, soap/cosmetics, and human pharmaceuticals to name just a few.  They deserve a good life, but the end of life for a bovine holds a link to sacrifice as that is his express purpose.

Kurt and Jessa Karlberg

Kurt and Jessa Karlberg

I’d like to take a moment to share “Benny’s story” as I think that it illustrates my answer to the above important question.

Benny was born on the Karlberg Ranch and lived briefly with his natural mother.  Sometimes Mother Nature acts harshly, and Benny was orphaned not long after birth.  He got a new “mama” by the name of Jessa Karlberg.  Jessa bottle fed Benny until he was big enough to eat grass and grow on his own.  He ate, slept, and played with herd mates.

bennyjessaJessa cared and he thrived.

Benny had a good life.

When Benny weighed about 940# (14 months of age), he left the Karlberg Ranch and traveled to Will Feed.  He traded grass for a feed yard casserole, and Jessa for me as a primary caregiver.  He ate, slept, and played with herd mates.  In just over 3 months, he gained 530#.

I cared and he thrived.

Benny had a good life.

benny2-jpgLast Sunday, Jessa came to visit Benny.  A couple of days later, I “put him on the bus” to head 20 miles down the road to the Tyson packing plant.  Benny fulfilled his purpose, and offered 1450# of products to nourish and provide for all of us.  By fulfilling his purpose, Benny returned all of the care that Jessa and I offered to him during his lifetime.

Benny had a good life.

Benny’s life resulted in products that, in turn, ensure that each of us has a good life. There is honor in that story. There is honor in Benny’s gift.

I think that it is time for all of us to celebrate the reality of food production — To have faith in the farmers and ranchers that dedicate their lives to raise animals like Benny. When we are thankful for the gift, we ultimately respect the sacrifice.

It’s okay to think of Benny, Jessa, and I when you eat a steak.  Benny had a good life; and Jessa and I worked hard so that you could reap the benefit 🙂



Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., Animal Welfare, Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

18 responses to “Benny Had a Good Life…

  1. whit

    Enjoyed stopping by Will Feed for a few minutes. we had stayed in North Platte and saw it was on the way home. it has been awhile since we have been on a cattle operation and the sites and smells brought back memories of past times !

    • Whit,

      I am so glad that you stopped by! I apologize that we were busy working cattle so I couldn’t give you a tour. I hope that your trip home went safely and easily 😊


  2. Teddi Vogel

    Thank you for this. We are a multigenerational feedlot and farm in South Central Montana. It’s a question I have been asked many times as well, and I have struggled with the answer. While it’s some to those of us in the industry, it’s not the case for everyone. This is not only a great story for consumers, but also a great way to explain it to my kids. They are 5 and 3. Our oldest asks so many questions, including how the cattle trucks get to heaven. This will be a great help. Thanks again for all your stories, you are a true advocate!

    • Thank you, Teddi! I am glad that you found the post useful. It was good for me to finally write about it in a way that made sense. I’ve been trying to put these thoughts into words for a long time.

      Best of luck to you and your family,

  3. Reblogged this on hdoty66yahoocom and commented:
    We just finished our fair and I had to deal with a whirlwind of emotions as my own kids and students had to face the reality of saying goodbye. My daughter took the responsibility of sending her pig on the truck and making arrangements for her lamb to be processed, My son chose not to watch his lamb leave along with my two students and their pigs. But they are all planning on doing their projects again next year. They understand the realities of caring for, raising from babies and growing animals to be used for human consumption. They also understand how many decisions go into raising and showing quality animals so that others may enjoy quality meat. It can be hard to say goodbye, but we try to understand what a good life our animals have.

  4. Dee Myers

    The answer I give is this: I do it so you and other people around the world can have medicine,clothing, shelter ,fuel,and food. Cattle provide hundreds of by products like soap ,coametics,building supplies,plastics,paint,medical sutures, asphalt, crayons, glues,linoleum, etc. Products that raise the standard of living for people around the world. That’s why cattlemen raise cattle.

  5. Mona

    That’s so stupid, we don’t need animals to survive! We need air and water which mad produced animals polute and your part of the big lie.

    • Hello Mona. I appreciate you taking the time to read my words. We seem to differ on a basic philosophical level which is our right as Americans. I wish that you would grant those that do not think the same as you some respect, as with freedom of thought and expression comes the companion duty of respecting those that do not share your views.

      Have a good night.

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  7. Joanne

    I needed to read this. It really helped me. This is the first year I have to send off calves that I have raised, here on our small farm, to serve their purpose. Even though I know the reason, reading your words will help me when that day comes. Very well said.

  8. Linda

    I had my own “Benny” back when my husband ran a beef cattle operation in Virginia in the early 80’s. Her name was “Jolene” and she also was orphaned at about 2 days of age due to a lightning strike to her mama…she was destined for the feedlot as she simply did not mature well enough to be added to the brood cow operation. Your explanation touched my heart and wanted you to know that I appreciated your well written article on “Benny”….

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