Where’s the Beef?

It’s a scary world and about to become a lot scarier.

Not only are we faced with the prospect of driverless cars and mirrors designed to voice unabashed opinions of our wardrobes, I recently realized that my “smart” doorbell has a higher IQ than I do.

Cowboys and cowgirls of the future?

Now scientists are closing in on giving us animal-free meat.  What that means is that our steaks will soon be grown in labs, not on cattle ranches.  Cowboys of the future will wear white coats instead of denims and Stetsons—and they sure won’t be riding horses.

It’s not hard to understand what’s driving this new technology.  Some believe that cattle and the methane gas they produce is the number one cause of global warming.  There are also financial considerations; It’s estimated that the cells from a single live cow will produce 175 million quarter pounders!  That’s about what McDonald’s sells in nine months.

I’m currently working on a book set on a Texas cattle ranch in 1800s and I can’t help but wonder what my hero would think about all of this.  No doubt he would be appalled and regard the so-called “clean meat” as a threat to his very existence. But he also knows what it’s like to fight a losing battle. In the book, his ever-ready Colt stops rustlers, horse thieves and “belled snakes,” but is useless in the face of progress.

Only time will tell if the National Cattleman’s Association will be successful in convincing consumers to demand the “real thing” in their hamburgers.  Or if it, too, will go the way of cattle drives.

Of course, not everyone agrees on what the “real thing” is. Some aficionados insist that none other than grass-fed cattle fit the bill, but that can be a hard sell.

Grass-fed cattle taste different than cattle fed on corn and soy. It has less fat, which means it’s healthier, but the taste doesn’t always suit modern palates and can take some getting used to.

Then there’s the difference in texture. Grass-fed cattle move around more than cattle in feedlots and therefore have more muscle.  This makes the meat “chewier.”  Those rugged cowboys of yesteryear might have relished a chewy steak while sitting around a campfire, but today most people prefer the tender, melt-in-your mouth taste of prime grain-fed beef.

Feed, muscle and fat aren’t the only things that affect taste. The way meat is handled during shipping, aging and preparation makes a difference, too. Barbecued steak doesn’t have the same flavor as meat cooked on an open campfire.  So even if you purchase grass-fed beef today, it still won’t taste the same as it did during those old chuck-wagon days.

Who knows?  Maybe future generations will prefer the taste of lab-grown meat, which some describe as “crunchy.”  There’s no stopping progress, but neither can we stop changing tastes.

So what changes or new tech do you like or dislike?


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40 thoughts on “Where’s the Beef?”

  1. WELL…..being the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher, with the fifth now operating it and the sixth coming on, I have a lot to say about perceptions regarding beef 🙂 First of all, except for the last 45 days in a feedlot, ALL cattle are raised in fields and open land. That’s one important reason we have open space. Cattle cohabitate with wildlife wonderfully; we have a natural preserve and more than 1000 ducks, geese, heron, eagles, hawks, etc. thrive alongside our cattle (along with beaver, otters, and fish).

    Not only that but for all those would be environmentalists who “think” that that cattle are detrimental to the environment, they could not be more wrong. Cattle are natural FIRE inhibitors (you know, if CA hadn’t cleaned out all the hillsides but allowed cattle to graze those grasslands, far fewer fires would have burned this last year and the USFS has removed cattle from grasslands in the forests, too, leaving tons and tons of dry, fire-hot fuel to go unchecked). PLUS, cows’ hooves (just like their cousin, the buffalo) act to provide carbon sequestration, which is the very process you want to occur in open land. It allows carbon to be put back into the soil while moving the seeds and keeping invasive, negative bunch grasses to inhibit the soil.

    Not only that, but cattle are natural recyclers and can turn dry refuse (like apricot hulls, sugar beet material) into foodstuff. The only cattle to be fed corn, etc., are in the feedlots. It’s an easy step to skip if you want, but there are no ‘factory-farmed’ beef cattle. That is a myth. Finally, nutritionally, 3 oz. of lean beef has the same calories as 3 oz. skinless chicken breast but is far more nutrient dense. It has trace minerals and B vitamins and zinc and heme-iron (far superior to kale or spinach, etc), and it actually encourages a better digestion of plant iron sources. too. It’s powerful brain food for children and nursing mothers and teenagers, and the U.S. has been deemed a zinc-poor and iron-poor population.

    Just to clarify, we raise (and have raised for decades) 100% ALL natural, pasture-raised, ranch-born and ranch-fed beef. No hormones, no antibiotics and only traces of oats and barley (ranch-raised)…no corn or other supplemental feeds.

    While we do sell some of our yearlings to the commercial feedlots, we also sell ‘farm to table’ and we sell to small butcheries and markets. In fact, Jenner Family Beef has been featured on ‘Diners, Drive’ins, and Dives’ and our hamburgers (sold through Clove & Hoof in Oakland, CA) have been selected #4 out of the top 10 in the SF Bay Area.

    So — apart from people who simply can’t stand beef, there is nothing remotely “beneficial” to eating test tube beef. It certainly isn’t a positive for the environment. Plus, there are MORE than 900 byproducts from beef used in everything from medicinal and pharmaceuticals to sports, to rubber to roads, etc….so there really are no fully vegetarians anyway 😉 But, if you close down ranches and you’ll close down open spaces. Remember 75% of ALL migrating waterfowl are protected by PRIVATE and large tracts of lands, not public lands…..too many people and too much land that is cut into smaller, less protective cover. The cow is an amazing animal!

    So here’s to my cowboy family (and former bull-riding hubby and son) and our fifth/sixth generation ranch. Cattlemen/cattlewomen won’t be disappearing anytime soon, in my opinion. Though we make up less than 2% of the total U.S. population, we are responsible for one out of every 4 jobs. In CA, alone, agriculture is #1 and if it were a country it would be 8th in the world. We CREATE wealth. As my father, an economist/businessman would point out to the naive world, wealth has to be created from the “ground up” — that is, farming, ranching, fishing, logging, mining, manufacturing, production of something…..it is the catalyst to creating jobs and creating real wealth 🙂

    This cowgirl is here to stay….and so is her cowboy and so is her love of the cowboy life. Yes, technology has changed a lot in our agricultural world, but it is still the hands on that gets the real work done….. 🙂

    • Gail, I love your passion for ranching and the cattle that is so beneficial. I applaud you for hanging on during the tough times, which I’m sure there have have many, to keep your ranch thriving. People are stupid for the most part and always trying to replace the old ways that this country was built on. Hopefully, technology will lose out. I’ll certainly do my part to fight against it. My biggest concern also is–what will lab generated meat do to our bodies? There will definitely be changes in our digestive tract. And that’s just one thing.

  2. I have never herd of the animal-free meat before. That is so interesting and disturbing at the same time. They seem like they have to find a new and “better” way of doing things. Personally I wish they would just leave stuff the way it is and try to cure cancer or something instead.

  3. Wow what a topic. Well as a livestock inspector for the state of Kansas, and an animal science major I’ve see things 1st Hand. So let me start out by saying the environment is NOT harmed from cattle as they are claiming. Cranking our vehicles, jumping on that airplane does more harm to our environment that any cattle operation.
    Cattle are only in a feedlot a short time, to finish them out and to fatten them up. The cattle that’s grain fed are tastier, more tender, and are well taken care of before they go to the plant to be processed. Grass fed cattle do have more muscle, but also are tougher and not as much flavor as grain fed cattle.
    Cattle are essential to agriculture not only for consumption but also their waste is used to fertilize the ground that farmers plant for all the corn, wheat, sunflower, soybeans, and cotton that fuels America in one form of another. So the lab junkies and their petri-dishes try to have an animal free meat all they want, but this country girl is sticking to what God gave us, true beef, chicken, and pork, the way God designed our bodies to eat. All the tree huggers and their kind can just keep consuming all this organic lab created foods and watch cancer and diseases rise, but for me I’m staying with the tried and true.
    Thanks for such a great article.

    • I’m with you, Tonya. They can try to sell their lab meat all they want, but I’m not eating it. Like you said, we’ll have more cancer and probably new diseases that we’ve never seen. It’s scary what they’re trying to do. Not only in this area, but others as well. Technology is not our friend.

  4. Margaret first off I must say I throughly look forward to reading more by you what I have read I have throughly enjoyed.
    I totally agree with Tonya Lucas!!! The cancers and sickness are one the rise because of all these chemicals in our food. I’ll definitely take a 100% beef burger any day over a darn chemical burger. Read the labels on our food it’s full of stuff we can’t even pronounce

    • Exactly Glenda! I couldn’t agree more! Having MS I could have gone on and on about this subject! I didn’t even get into how so many people are allergic and suffering issues with gluten. It has to be because of the science used to produce our crops. The chemicals put into the growing process that giving us issues not the gluten itself.

      • Exactly Stephanie!!! I know artificial sweeteners will flare my fibro so bad I can barely move much less even get out of bed.

      • Stephanie, I hadn’t thought of the possibility that it’s the chemical and not the gluten that causes problems. Gluten is a natural product, so it doesn’t really make sense that so many people are affected by it.

  5. Well I’m the daughter of a cattle broker and past feedlot(s) owner. We raised cattle that had the best of both worlds. They spent time in the pasture and time on grain feed. Boy do I miss having that meat in my freezer and on my table when one had an accident or the freezee was getting low and we butchered one. I’m not satisfied with the meat I get at the store already, the majority of the time. I guess if this lab meat came into existence in my lifetime I’d officially become a vegetarian. Trust me that would be a miracle I like my meat! I have MS and probably should be a vegetarian and eat m6 own home grown veggies that I know what’s been put on them and other organic vegetables. I’m a firm believer that the cancers and auto-immune diseases that we suffer from already have a lot to do with processed foods, the chemicals in this world and all the scientific stuff we’ve been exposed to. The last thing we need is our meat coming from a lab. We already have some meat companies gluing some meat together to make scraps be a pretty steak. I worry sometimes when I buy a steak now that’s it’s been glued together. Listen to Tonya Lucas she’s so right with her comment!! Well that’s my dislike. Lol I love out smart phones and how we have a computer with us at all times. I love that a subject can come up and I have Google at my fingertips!

  6. I grew up on a dairy farm and am all for real food. I hate how things are becoming fake or replaced in today’s society. We need to stop. We all need real food again, not anything made in a lab! Ok, just my two cents. 🙂 love your post!

  7. Just the thought of animal free meat turns me off. Nothing can replace the real thing. I can understand changes in some things can be a good thing. There is nothing wrong with advances in the world, but don’t mess with our food. It’s worked out just fine all this time, why change it?

  8. I have to argue with the gases. I believe it’s the spaceships going through the ozone. Poking holes in the atmosphere. I love the automatic coffee pot. The computer is a marvelous device but with technology comes hackers taking your identity.

  9. Every time I buy a package of ground chuck at the grocery I always wonder just what is in it. Lets face it we have no clue what we are buying today. I do know that hamburger is tougher then it use to be, but I am not sure its coming for the cows so I wonder just what they put in it.

    • I know what you mean, Quilt Lady. I remember several years back, I opened a packet of ground round and it looked like it was infested with worms. I took it back to the market and that’s when I found out it wasn’t worms; it was filler. I changed markets.

  10. As a person that owns cattle, thankfully I don’t have to worry about this!! Have always had our own meat!

  11. My husband and I farmed for over 30 years and our primary income was derived from tobacco and dairy production but at the end we also raised beef cattle. Animal-free meat is completely new to me and I agree with most of the other commenters. The money being invested in this is needed so much more in other areas. Cancer research, child abuse, women shelters, drug addiction and even our educational systems. And, as simplistic as it may sound, I believe that God created animals to feed man so it can’t be bad!
    Thanks for a great post!

  12. In the midst of all these changes, the Lord never changes. He is our Goshen, place of refuge. To be alive in these last days will be both a challenge and exciting.

  13. Animal free meat, isn’t that called soy or tofu? I won’t eat either one willingly. I agree with several people commenting, the chemicals we are putting into our bodies are causing so many problems. There are somethings you just leave alone, and meat is one of those things. I am very picky about the beef I buy for the reason, like to know where it comes from, what did it eat, and was it injected with chemicals.

  14. Hi Veda, I’m picky, too, but there’s no way of knowing what hormones or chemicals were used in most of the meat we buy. I just open the organic fruits and veggies I buy are really that!

  15. The technology that has given us cell phones, e-readers, the internet, etc. has made life “easier” in some ways, but not all of those changes are for the better. Instant communication has its drawbacks. You can seldom get away from work or spam calls. Either the boss asks us to take work with us or we do it on our own. The computer takes away you excuse not to be able to work. E-readers are convenient, but they are not nearly as good as a real book. Children start at a young age focusing on their electronic devices and not the other people in the room. They aren’t learning to socialize. We have become a society of disconnected, connected people. We were at a restaurant for breakfast when a little girl, her mother, and grandmother came in and sat at a table near us. Immediately the girl pulled out her I-pad, the mom pulled out her phone, and the grandmother pulled out her e-reader. They did not speak to each other the entire time they were there, even when their food came. Kids go to National Parks and never get their noses out of their phones.

    • Hi Patricia, sadly what you say about disconnected, connected people is true. The problem is that not only kids are hooked, the adults are, too.

      The rule at my house is no electronics at the table and that goes for restaurants. It works and no one complains. That’s because we’re having too much fun communicating.

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