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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cow Power

Last week I took a little field trip up-state to Rally Farms in Millbrook, NY. Rally Farms, is a livestock-dealer. Which essentially means they do the same thing as a dog breeder, except they do it with cows... they artificially inseminate female cows and then raise the offspring so that they can be sold for slaughter and production. All in all, it's a pretty basic operation that they are running at the farm, however too me I found it very interesting because, I guess I never realized there was a middle man with regard to producing beef. I always assumed that the farms bred, raised and slaughtered their own animals. However, with regard to Rally Farms, they focus solely on producing the highest quality of cow that they can. Which they have been able to achieve through lineage. They do not use genetically modified DNA, but rather, they use the middle of the road live-stock to regenerate their cattle. Which means from one group of cattle coming from a given season, there are essentially three grades given to their animals. The farm sells the top grade and low grade cows for production, and keeps the middle of the road cows to continue extracting DNA to produce more cows. By doing this naturally, it takes years to file down and perfect the DNA strand so that they can produce a consistent, quality of product.

However, not every cow that the farm keeps, in order to produce more cows, successfully takes the artificial insemination. And this is where the whole process got very interesting for me. Because, on average between 10 and 20 percent of the female cows do not successfully receive the artificial insemination. In which case, the farm hands are forced to call in the reserves, or as they preferred to call him, "The Clean-Up Guy". Now lets just take a moment and reflect on this. We have cows being created through artificial insemination. Great; that works. And sometimes through no fault of their own, the female cows, or more lovingly known as the Heifers, just don't take the artificial stuff. They need the real thing. So the farm has a bull, called "The Clean-Up Guy", who is let loose into a pen, with the young heifer, so that he can finish the job the right way. And to be honest, for the week or so that's followed, I have not been able to get this burning image of a giant bull mounting a heifer out of my head. I mean, really? The "Clean-up Guy"?

I guess it is somewhat sad that, after getting to see first hand how the meat industry generates its product, the most profound thing that I was able to take away was an image of cows fucking. However, at the end of the day I truly was able to see an amazing thing. I got to see how a private farm in the heart of the Hudson valley can play such a major role in the Certified Angus Beef program. That 2,200 acres of land, less than a two hour drive from the heart of Manhattan, can be privately owned, and utilized as part of the keystone to our nations meat industry.
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