With my plate piled high with a variety of deliciousness, I sat down at a table occupied by people whom I had never met to enjoy supper and conversation. I introduced myself as a cattle rancher from Nebraska, attending Farm Tank to learn, engage in conversation, and make connections. Noticing the nice sized helping of cooked-to-perfection beef that occupied my plate, the gentlemen sitting at my left questioned me.
“And you still eat beef?!?!”
“How can you care for an animal for so long and still eat it? I’m not sure I could.”
Albeit shocked and surprised, his inquiry was genuine and sincere. He was truly interested in learning more and hearing how I was still able to eat beef after having spent countless hours caring for cattle. And, I was happy to oblige.
An Honest Answer to the Question “How can you eat beef?”
As he listened intently to my reply, I explained that I believe that everyone and everything has God-given purpose. And knowing that our cattle have purpose in providing nutrient rich, wholesome beef – that is honestly how I can still eat beef.
But, you guys – I get it.
I totally and completely understand where his question came from. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t sometimes hard, spending countless hours caring for animals who will eventually give up their lives to provide us with food. I grew up on a feed yard. I understood that the purpose of the cattle we cared for was to provide beef to tables across the country. And yet, I distinctly the rush of emotions that ran over me as I took the halter off of my very first 4-H market steer, Norman, that last time.
I took on the responsibility of raising that big black steer with the bad habit of kicking unsuspecting bystanders, myself included. His care was completely entrusted to me. And, I made sure he had a never-ending supply of fresh water. I fed him a diet that kept him healthy and helped him grow and vaccinated him according to Beef Quality Assurance standards, keeping records on all of it. In return, Norman won Grand Champion Market Beef for me at the county fair that year. I sold him later that fall. As a young (slightly hormonal) teenage girl, I had a bit of hard time letting him go.
Even though it was hard letting that big black steer go, I continued to eat beef. My belief that cattle have purpose in nourishing the masses with beef has never wavered – ever. I continue to care for cattle so that they can, in turn, care for and nourish me. I do not take that responsibility lightly. And I am abundantly grateful for cattle and the beef they provide.