August 28, 2012

Humane Treatment all the Way to Slaughter

I have been asked and have seen many times where people ask livestock owners how we can sell our animals knowing their fate is the "end".  Check out this video put out by Dr. Temple Grandin.

Dr. Grandin has dedicated her life to improving the humane handling of livestock and has had a HUGE lasting impression on improving cattle handling at the ranch, feedlot, and slaughter facilities.  If you have not watched her movie documenting her life I STRONGLY suggest you do.  It not only shows how she was able to "overcome" autism but how the way she sees and interacts in life has greatly benefited the livestock industry.  Her cattle handling facilities and designs are used all over the beef industry from small operations to the largest of feedlots and packers.  I have had the pleasure to listening to a lecture from her when I was in college.  Then just a few weeks ago I got to listen to her again and watch her help process (vaccinate and worm) 150 head of steers at a feedlot that she has never been to before.  With in 10 minutes and after a few small changes to the facility the crew worked 150 head of cattle in less time than it normally took to work 100, the cattle were calmer and the people actually had to work less "hard".  In fact the guy loading the cattle into the facility would shut the gate and stand in 1 spot and with little to no movement 15 steers would load themselves in the ally and walk toward the chute!

From our pastures and fields to your plate!!
 Anyway back to the subject at hand.  I know that our steers are in good hands and will be cared for with the same high standards we use at the ranch because we have picked the feedlot the steers go to and the harvest facility they will eventually be harvested at.  The feedlot and program that Mark and I sell our steer calves through has a contract with a large commercial packing plant for to provide a certain amount of finished cattle each week.  I know exactly which packing plant our steers will be harvested in.  I also know that Dr. Grandin has designed the facility that our steers will walk through and that this packer conducts 3rd party audits to make sure that their employees are doing things RIGHT and that their facilities are in proper working order.  They have state of the art camera and a someone monitoring the harvest process from begining to end to make sure employees are maintaining a high level of standard in animal handling, the facility is working properly, and that the final product (beef) is being handled to maintain food safety standards.  Through my work as a graduate student I have been in several slaughter plants.  I know what the unloading/holding pens look like, I have seen first hand the steps in producing beef from the stunning all the way to putting the meat into the boxes that are shipped to the grocery stores and restaurants.  Mark and I raise beef which comes from cattle.  When our calves our born, we know that they will one day be providing a nutritious and high quality eating experience for a consumer.  I can feel proud to know that our calves lives are not taken lightly and that those involved along the way will give them the care and respect they deserve all the way to the end result. 
I really like the virtual tour that Dr. Grandin has made available to the public.  The big reasons that packers, feedlots, and ranches don't give public tours are because of safety (cattle, vistor, employee), biosecurity, food safety, and to help keep the livestock calm through the whole process.  This is a great tool to allow those you want to know a tour through the humane handling of cattle slaughter and you don't even have to get out of your pajama's or travel many miles! 

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