Cows are cute and all but…..

Cows are food.
Do you ever think about where your food comes from? More specifically, where your beef comes from…the journey it takes from birth to your plate? Probably not, I know I didn’t. All I knew is if my ribeyes were on sale at the grocery store and what night of the week I was going to cook them.
And the final product of beef on my plate was just plain delicious.
I had the wonderful opportunity to be sent to Omaha Nebraska by the Florida beef council. The Nebraska beef council wanted  a group of us to see the journey of a cow.
What an interesting journey it is.
I have a whole new respect for beef farmers. I have never in my life met a group of people so proud of what they do, it was heart warming.
The first day of the Nebraska beef tour, we visited Greater Omaha Packing, a meat processing and packing plant. I really did not know what to expect. I am sure 99.9 % of the population has never been inside a meat packing plant.
It  was EXTREMELY educational and I am glad I had the opportunity.
I cried…. I did, I cried. I was the only one that did. Like full on tears streaming down my face.   I didn’t cry because the process was inhumane or abusive, because it WAS NOT. I just suppose the reality of the cute cow with batty long eyelashes actually needs to be killed and processed to make it to my plate.
From the time the live cow enters the facility until every portion of that cow has been processed, wether it be the meat we eat,  to the membrane of the heart being stretched out to be used in heart transplants takes only 1 minute and 45 seconds. The process was mind boggling. Did seeing the process stop me from eating beef? Nope, sure didn’t. It made me realize that the cute cows are raised not to be cuddly, but to feed our mouths. I learned to separate my feelings.
We also got to experience feed lots. We traveled to the Albers feed yard and the Loseke Farm.  Basically what happenes at a feed yard is the farmers buy small cows and feed them until they are ready to go to market. Cows are their livelihood. They take care of those cows like their children. You might think of a feed yard with cows just packed in small pins or yards with no where to move. So not the truth. Cow are natural herding animals. They like to stick close together. They are living in huge yards with plenty of room to roam around, they just like to snuggle I suppose..

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You see all that room they have to dance around? They just like to be close.
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Caring for cows is a very scientific job.
So many things are tracked by a computer. Each cow obviously has an ear tag with a number, and everything is tracked, any treatment that is done on that cow, or if they become sick, or even if they move pins, it is tracked. The farmer wants to know every single aspect of  that cows live. The food they eat is also scientifically monitored. The cowboys go out every morning to observe the cows to make sure they are all happy and healthy. If one is acting not quite like themselves, they bring the cow in for observation. They truly want their cows to be healthy and happy.

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Visiting the Wagonhammer Ranch was a beautiful sight. It was located in the Sandhills of Nebraska. The Sandhills have a much different landscape than the corn fields and cow pastures, they have rolling hills of grasslands, it’s quite beautiful. The Wagonhammer registered Angus herd of 400 momma cows that produce performance tested bulls and heifers for commercial cattlemen throughout the central US.

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The Town and County Veterinary clinic was Ohhhhh so very different than my vet clinic. My vets office offers cute little dog bones and leashes while this vet clinic offers calf feeding tubes all sorts of large animal assescories.

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Oh and they even have birthing suites..sometimes even cows need to have c-sections.

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This is an injection syringe. Wooza, thats big. Imagine one of those commin’ at ya.
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So next time you are eating that hamburger or filet, stop and think about where it may have come from. It’s a very interesting journey.


  1. 1

    Really interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    Wow Leslie this is great! Mind if I share on the Iowa Corn blog next week?

  3. 3

    I remember watching a documentary about the processing of cows for consumption when I was in culinary school. I was one of only 3 women in the class, the rest all men. Most of the men had a problem with the video but I strongly believe in knowing where your food comes from and the process from farm to table. While it can be sad or disturbing, I am still a meat eater because like you said you have to be knowledgeable but separate your feelings from your food, because that is what it is. And we have remember we have been consuming meat since the beginning of time. Your trip looks like it was very interesting and informative. I would love the opportunity to go visit a cattle ranch and meet the folks who care for my food before it gets to my table. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pictures.

  4. 4

    I’ll be in Omaha on Friday for a wedding driving there with my daughter. Cows…Now your talking my language. My dad worked for IPB (Iowa Beef Packers), along with many other Beef Packing Plants in the midwest and AZ. He really knew the business and loved what he did and was well respected in his field. I spent my summers in the midwest growing up and was at the plant often. Coming from a family of farmers/hunters this is something I am very familiar with.

  5. 6

    Hmmm. Who knew? And I’m not sure I’ve ever thought cows were cute, but now and then (not a big meat eater), a great, perfectly cooked (well done, thank you) nice steak is pretty darn good.

  6. 7

    I am so happy you got to see the process to get beef on your plate. The first time I was in a large processing plant I thought if everyone could see this, views of food would change immensely. Beautiful pictures too! The corn looks a lot better than our corn this year. Our fields are dying due to lack of rain and 100+ degree days.

  7. 8

    This is a really great post! I think more people should know where their meat comes from. Not so they can them become a vegetarian, but just to be aware of the process. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and started eating meat again last year for health reasons. I would still love to do a tour like this though.

  8. 9

    Loved reading this post and looking at your photos. My husband and I raise beef cattle from birth until they are bought by a feed lot for “finishing,” the final step before slaughter. I admit the baby calves are so adorable I hate to think too much about their ultimate fate, and I have never actually visited a packing plant. Thank you for raising awareness of the process and sharing your experience.

  9. 10

    We spent several summers on a working farm when I was a kid….learned so much, and no doubt things have changed a great deal since then. Really an interesting post….and I do love beef.

  10. 11

    What an excellent post! I am glad you took Nebraska up on the opportunity to visit. The farmers, ranchers, feedlot operators and meat packers of this country work very hard to supply the nation with food. Often times they get beat up in the media for misconceptions. Thank you for giving such a truthful and honest perspective.

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    Any possibility you only see and tell exactly what you want to in order to continue the practice of taking the lives of others without “guilt”? I think the main point of contention with most people who have been able to see through the myths is that all this death (killing) is totally unnecessary… We sure don’t need animal flesh to thrive!

    The meat/dairy/egg industries spends hundreds of millions of dollars lying to the public about their product. But no amount of false propaganda can sanitize meat. The facts are absolutely clear: Eating meat is bad for human health, catastrophic for the environment, and a living nightmare for animals. There’s never been more compelling reasons or a better time to opt for a plant based diet.
    Want to create a better world? Eat like you mean it – Go Vegan

    • 13

      We have been eating meat since the beginning of time. I respect your decision to not eat meat, but I sure wouldn’t go to your blog and preach on why you should add it to your diet….So I see no need for you to come to mine and preach to me.
      To each their own.

  12. 14

    Great article, and glad you enjoyed the tour. The Nebraska Beef Council has had great success with this program, and it’s because we need more people like you that are opening your mind to being educated! It’s hard to find anyone that cares more about their animals then a farmer or rancher. You are welcome at our ranch anytime!

  13. 15

    That is some beautiful cow country…wow…and so interesting!

  14. 16

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Having grown up in Nebraska on a farm I understand the difference between livestock (pigs, sheep, chickens and cattle) and pets. It was great to hear that you enjoyed your visit and understand how much we care for our livestock even though they aren’t our pets.

  15. 17

    Hi, Leslie.
    I raise cattle in the middle of the midwest. One reason the syringe is so big is to vaccinate a bunch of cattle all at once without loading the syringe all the time. We usually only give 2 to 5cc shots at a time. That one likely holds 50cc.
    Enjoyed the article.

  16. 18

    Thanks for taking the time to come to Nebraska and visit us. Your group was a lot of fun. The learning was flowing both ways as the people in your group all came from areas and lifestyles so different from ours. I know I enjoyed it at least as much as the tour group did.

    Your blog was fun to read and I appreciate the information you shared with your readers. If you, or any of your bloggers, have questions or want more information, just let me know. Also, we extend a warm welcome to any that would like to follow your trail.

    Jay Wolf, Wagonhammer Ranch