Public has beef with cattlemen

January 08, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

No one at The Herald-Mail has ever taken more abuse than a former editor who once referred, in a cutline, to a cow as a "he."

She's hated cows ever since, for being "misleading."

I thought the editors got it wrong again with this whole cow thingy. The lawyers don't allow me to call anyone "mad" in print, although believe me, I've tried. So I have to refer to it as "Allegedly Disquieted Of Thought Through No Fault Of Their Own With Outlying Factors Which Could Be Considered Mitigating According to More Than One Source Cow Disease."

The first news report I saw referred to the offending animal (allegedly) as 1.) a cow and 2.) a Holstein cow.

Here's everything in the entire universe that I know about cattle: They have four legs, and a Holstein is a dairy cow.


Unless your name is Fido or Fluffy, you don't eat dairy cows.

Or so I thought.

But it turns out the press got it right, it was indeed a Holstein that was uddering her way through the meat-packing process.

There is so much about the meat industry that I do not want to know.

With the dawn of a happy new year, the last thing I need is to be confronting a gender issue every time I order a burger. When I got a steak, I always assumed it was a boy steak and I never saw anything wrong with that. After all, didn't warriors eat the livers of their conquered foes?

(Chief: "CHAAARRGE!!" Soldier: "No, really, I couldn't eat another bite.")

But somehow it's a little different if I think it might be a girl steak. I think the FDA needs to take another step in its grading process. I want to be assured that I am getting a USDA Grade A Choice HE steak.

But things only got worse when I heard that the diseased animal that was headed for the packing plant was what they call a "downer cow." I didn't know what that meant, but immediately I formed the opinion that it was not good.

Turns out, a "downer cow" is what the meat industry calls a critter that is too sick or crippled to go prancing onto the killing line under its own steam.

They have to lug the poor dying creature to the packing plant before it expires so they can process the corpse into profit.

That's efficient, I suppose. If a cow gets hit by a tractor and breaks a couple of legs, you call in the Cow Medevac so you can quick kill it before it dies. Maybe there's no harm in it, but to my mind, that's coming dangerously close to eating road kill.

And sick? Really? They butcher sick animals for our consumption? The vet calls the cow into his office and says "Bad news, we ran the tests and you only have two months to live." And then adds, "But it gets worse..."

No, things aren't as happy down at the slaughterhouse as they used to be. Somehow I'm thinking the dying-cow-in-your-Stroganoff paradigm is a little secret the cattle industry was hoping would stay under wraps for a while longer.

And it makes you wonder what other little nasties they have hiding under the feed trough. Like if they won't stop with sick cows, pray, what do they do with their sick horses? You don't suppose that...

Old gray mare she

Ain't what she used to be

Had an appendectomy

Now she spins on my rotisserie.

Oh yes, there is one other teensy little thing that they somehow neglected to mention in the &Beef; It's What's For Dinner" ad campaigns.

Seems when a cow is butchered, they take all the visceral byproducts that are too yukky even for hot dogs and make meal out of it that they feed back to other, more living, cows.

Geez, no wonder the cows are sick.

'Course I'm an old dog, I won't stop eating red meat, even if I know that cows are being fed the innards of other cows. Might even make for a catchy slogan: "Beef: It's Offally Good."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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