great job, smithsonian mag!
i stumbled across this online article today, telling in detail the story of producing beef in the U.S. today, specifically featuring the cow/calf producer and seedstock industry. it's titled 'breeding the perfect bull.'
here's an excerpt:
"April marks the earliest days in a commercial cow’s life, and arguably the happiest. The calves at the R. A. Brown Ranch, just 6 to 8 weeks old, have been tagged and vaccinated, and now wander freely, chewing the wild grasses of Texas. The sunrise is so red it fills the sky with stripes of fire and turns the cowboy hats pink. Jeff Bezner, a 29-year-old cowboy with prematurely salt-and-pepper hair, glasses and an air of sparkling innocence, has the back of this cattle drive, while two other cowboys take the flanks. They keep the cattle in a clump, pushing them from pasture to paddock. Herding cows is not difficult, especially Red Angus, famously gentle and polite. (For a good time, try wrestling up some Brahmans.) The cows thunder obediently through the buffalo grass as the cowboys’ horses amble and the men occasionally wave their arms, letting out a “Wheeet, wheeeet,” or “Get on now, gals!”
“I never said nothing about love,” Jeff says to his team, referring to the love he has, in fact, been talking about all morning. (Jeff wants a wife.) A cowboy on a cattle drive has time to ponder such matters.
“You’ve known her for a whole six days!” one shoots back.
“Eight,” Jeff says, slapping his chaps. “I’m telling you, she’s awesome.” He whistles through his teeth. The cattle move as one, a rumbling blanket of rolling amber, humming their lazy cow songs: aaaroooom, aaaroooom, aaaroooom.
Beef, even now, is still personal, is cultural, is cowboys.
It isn’t like pork or poultry. Commercial pigs and chickens live their whole lives in industrial-size barns. Beef, in its beginning stages, will never be produced that way because a simple fact remains: all cows eat grass. You need land to grow calves. Lots and lots of land. That land is divided among many owners. Beef production is unlike any other agricultural industry in that it has remained utterly dependent on the family farm or the extended-family farm, manned by the same people who sing in the church choirs and run the school boards and football leagues that knit the fabric of small towns like Throckmorton. Beef production is the largest single segment of American agriculture, a $76 billion industry, and yet more than 97 percent of U.S. cattle ranches are family-owned and -operated."
click the link above for the entire article. click here for more photographs from the article.
and you can tell this kid's from texas!!