The Cows are Tired …

The Cows are Tired …

So, I’ve been buying raw milk from a local rancher since last fall — she shows up every Tuesday with a glass gallon pickle jar full of milk, with a nice layer of cream on the top. The cream has been getting thicker the past couple of weeks — I used to skim about a pint of cream and now I’m well up to nearly a quart.

My milk lady left me a note this week stating that she’s going to have to suspend delivery after the 28th until sometime in April after the cows calve. It’s been a hard winter, her note said. They need a nice long rest.

Not to sound too fey about it all, but I found it charming to learn that the cows need some time off. Talk about seasonality. Late winter and early spring is, in traditional cultures, a time of fasting — largely because food gets scarce. While I’m not taking on a draconian Lenten fast, there’s something interesting about knowing that the cows need a break.

The New York Times had an odd article in the food section yesterday, Chefs’ New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye. While the article ostensibly covered the movement among chefs to know not only the source of their meat, but to re-examine and in some cases, participate in the slaughter of the animals — there was a snarkiness to the tone that implied that all the interest is merely a stunt.

Now, granted, there is a shock factor to Jamie Oliver gassing male chicks on television, but is that shock greater than learning that this is how chicken farmers cope with excess male chicks? Seems to me the movement, as such, stems from the effort by industrial agriculture and the corporate grocery industry to distance ordinary people from any knowledge that their food comes from actual plants and animals. The boneless skinless chicken breast (symbol of all that is evil with modern meat) did not, no matter how they try to convince you otherwise, spring fully formed into existence in that styrofoam tray. It did actually grow on a chicken, probably a chicken raised in very unpleasant conditions, by farmers who are being squeezed by corporate interests, and then slaughtered and packaged by illegal immigrants working under inhumane conditions against which they cannot complain for fear of deportation. Yum.

So if chefs, and ordinary eaters like me, would rather buy raw milk from an actual person, or buy a whole animal to put up for winter, can you blame us? If we want to actually see what’s happening with our food, perhaps it’s not a stunt, perhaps its a protest against an industrial system that devalues all life — human and animal alike.

7 thoughts on “The Cows are Tired …

  1. I just picked our pigs up at the butcher on Monday, and I don’t believe I will ever be able to eat commercial pork (chicken, beef, etc.) again. Knowing, literally, what went into them, giving them belly rubs, playing chase with them, that means a lot to me. I know how they lived. I also know how they died. I also know that I’ve never tasted such delicious meat.

    If you are what you eat, I am a happy, well-cared-for, fat-covered pasture pig.

  2. Interesting thing about the male chickens. We raise chickens, but not on a commercial scale. We raise up 99% of the males as roosters off in a different field from the hens – they beat up on the hens something fierce if there are too many roosters. Then the roosters become dinner for us. They taste delicious. No need to kill them young and waste their lives & potential.

  3. Of course — that makes perfect sense to raise the roosters for meat — I haven’t seen the Jamie Oliver show so I was just quoting the Times article. But raising roosters for meat makes perfect sense — like veal calves , you have to do something with the boys, and it’s a shame to just let them go to waste — one of my current projects is to find someone to raise me a veal calf. We don’t have a lot of dairy operations around here — and although I tried to get my milk lady to sell me hers, she decided to keep him. But a nice happy little veal calf who wasn’t locked in a cage — I ate delicious pink veal in France a couple of years ago and I’ve been looking for a good source ever since.

  4. I had not seen the show or the Time article. I’ll look for it. It’s hard being a male on the farm. One in a thousand or ten thousand get to live to adulthood and breed. The rest go to meat. For females it’s easier, to a degree. With pigs we keep about one in a hundred gilts (young female pig) for breeding and if she proves herself (good mom, excellent piglets) she’ll stay for a long life. Likewise for hens with even a higher rate of staying. Out in the wild the odds are similarly biased along the sex lines. Only the best of the best pass on their genes and that’s especially true for the males.

  5. It never occurred to me about the cows needing a rest. It makes perfect sense but it never occurred to me. That goes to show how out of touch with reality we are here in the US. And that whole gassing male chicks instead of raising them to eat!?! It opens up a new perspective into how by chasing the most “efficient” means of feeding the masses we have come up with one of the most wastefull, inefficient, and toxic systems I can think of.

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