Intermission

☆ June 5, 2018

I’ve been writing The Long & Winding & Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M for a few reasons. One: to share, pure and simple. Two: to get this story on paper and out of my brain, because it’s something I want to hold on to. Three: because I need your help, or advice, or ideas, or perspective. Here’s the thing: all the characters in this beautiful true story are Angus cows and calves – that is to say, beef cows and calves. You care about them. I care about them. My hope, my wish, my dream, is that the general population, society at large, comes to care about the animals that produce and become our food (and our pets’ food) the way that you and I care about the cows in The Story of 3M. Because all of the animals that produce and become our food (and our pets’ food) are individuals with personalities as vast and endearing as the animals I write about. Every single one. If I hadn’t bought Daisy when I did and if she had stayed at the dairy for seven months longer than she did, Frisco would have been veal. Our conventional food system, the way it is currently arranged, does not treat animals very well. The environment is often treated poorly, too. How do we change the status quo?

The answer is not as simple as “everyone should be vegan.” That’s not realistic, as many bodies do not thrive without meat, myself included, (and not for lack of trying). I’ve also come to the conclusion that, for me, eating organic, grass-finished beef is more ecologically responsible than getting the bulk of my protein from plants. Defending Beef (written by a vegetarian environmental lawyer) explains in depth the restorative effects of grazing animals and the detrimental effects of cultivated crops on climate change, sequestering carbon, and preserving topsoil, which is why I feel this book is an important read for everyone, not just meat eaters.

I love cows, I eat meat, I raise beef cattle, and I sell meat to other people who eat meat. I have been called a hypocrite murderer via email more times than I can count. I don’t see myself or my work that way – I see it exactly the opposite and have written about that here. And as I stated in that post, none of this is easy. I’m not doing it for “easy.” I’m doing it to change the world. And sometimes it feels so impossible, the necessary shifts insurmountable. And so I tell myself that even if I don’t change the world, I can change the lives of some animals by keeping them out of the feedlot system, and of my customers by providing them with extraordinary, healthy meat that is aligned with their values, and that these small changes matter. Strangely, even when it feels impossible, I can see my dream of the future so clearly… the solutions, the big picture, the potential! I can see it all spread out in front of us, as clear and distant as the view of Earth from the window of an airplane.

I’m reading a book called Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown and I’m in love with it – this book gives me hope and determination. Full book report coming when I finish it, but for now: emergent strategy is “strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions….” Wow. Yes. This blog post is a relatively small interaction. What might it do? What mycelienic network is it part of and how will that network expand? Star Brand Beef is a relatively small interaction, a microbusiness. I started it and continue it because it’s an alternative to the status quo and if the status quo is going to change, alternatives must be available. And a network of people – my incredible, creative customers and supporters of this work – keep it alive, keep it evolving. I could not do it on my own.

I learned quickly that I need to completely clear my schedule during the weeks I take my steers to transition from living beings to nourishing food. It’s hard. It’s intense. I still cry and I know I always will. I thank the animals – I wrap them in layers upon layers of prayers of gratitude – not just from me but from every one of my customers who will be sustained by them for the coming year. And all year long, after every burger, every steak, I say “holy wow, Star Brand Beef is the best!” And I say thanks to the animals again.

I was talking to my mom the other night (I’ve turned her on to keto) and she mentioned how much she likes chicken. And when I asked her where she bought her chicken, she said ‘the store’ and when I asked her about the kind of chicken, the life and backstory of the chicken she bought and ate, she said she didn’t know, that she never really thought about it. And I gave her my schpeal about the inhumane treatment commercially-farmed chickens endure before they become grocery store chicken, and how, on the flip side, she could have an incredible impact on the life of an indie chicken farmer if she went to the farmers market or read the local classifieds and found someone raising pastured chickens, someone who cared for and respected their chickens and raised them in a way that served the planet and honored the birds. “You will make a difference,” I told her, “to that chicken farmer and to every single chicken you eat.” And part of me was screaming inside because why did I have to spell this out for her? She sees what I go through with Star Brand Beef, has heard my passionate rants against factory farms and the inhumane treatment of animals and earth. And I wonder how often she’ll consider this going forward. Sometimes, maybe? Will she think about it every time she eats chicken?

Pastured, humanely-raised meat (be it beef, pork, or fowl) is more expensive than factory farmed meat. This is because doing right by the animals and by Mother Earth takes more time and effort and care and money and space. But what is of greater value than healthy, nourishing food that was raised ethically, prioritizing the sustainability of agricultural practices, the well-being of the animals, the environmental impact? It SHOULD cost more. This idea that food should be the cheapest thing we spend our money on is the dark side of capitalism: the system has been rigged to train us to buy cheap food so we have money left over to spend on more clothes and knick knacks than we need, often made by cheap, exploitative labor, and then, perhaps, an expensive, brand new car on credit because that’s our collective sign of success. Let’s not! Let’s buy perfectly decent used cars, get our wardrobes from thrift stores (all my cashmere has come from thrift stores), and spend more on the most important thing: healthy food, produced ethically and sustainably.

“I spend most of the money that comes my way on food, and most of my time thinking about, procuring, preparing, and consuming food…and this seems as it should be. This is my definition of right relationship to our food- that it should be an all consuming relationship that leaves little room for things like shopping addictions or toxic friends or any of the other trouble we find ourselves in with all the extra time that convenience foods afford us.” (Erin Rivera Merriman, Active Culture Family)

“How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of economies and ecologies that center humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?” (Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy).

“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot the rest.” (Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home).

Not everyone can afford to make these choices. Not everyone can afford food, period. Which leads me to my latest venture, another small act of emergent strategy: a collaboration between Star Brand Beef, The Food Bank of the Rockies, and, if you’re interested, you.


I donate beef every year, personally, but believe that together, we can donate even more to those in need and keep even more animals from entering the feedlot system, and I’ve teamed up with The Food Bank of the Rockies so that YOU get the tax deductions. You can read more about my philosophy behind this collaboration and how it all works HERE.

To contribute, click HERE. You’ll see a drop-down menu of options – every amount makes a difference. Thank you so much for joining me in this venture in whatever way you feel called.


Last but not least, Star Brand Beef – my work of heart and soul, humanely-raised, organically-raised, free-ranging, grass-fed and grass-finished pastured beef, dry aged to perfection – is open for ordering for just two more weeks. I only deliver once a year, so if you would like to order, the time is now.

Delivery routes and schedules are HERE
Cut lists are HERE
Ordering options and pricing is HERE
Online shop is HERE
Questions? Email me at sbb [at] starbrandbeef [dot] com

Thank you for reading this far.
I look forward to reading your thoughts…….

Please stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming: Part V of The Long and Winding and Beautiful and Tragic Story of 3M is coming up next.

Comments

24 Responses to “Intermission”

  1. ELAINE CHECKLEY
    June 5th, 2018 @ 9:13 am

    BRAVO to you for this “article” and information. I do my absolute best to buy 10% organic – NON-GMO – everything I can get my hands on at the store ~ dairy, meat, staples, produce, nuts you name it. Our bodies are the only “home” we have to live in and we need to make what we put in our mouths a priority. I am constantly sharing with people about the difference between the “regular” food and Organic – NON-GMO products especially. Monsanto is killing the world and so many people are still oblivious. I always offer thanks to the animal for the meat/fish I am eating. I remember reading years ago that the Indians would always offer thanks to the animal they harvested for food and that touched me to honor the animal. And it’s okay if people want to be vegetarian and vegan and their bodies can operate on that, great – but we need to HONOR each other and everyone choices if we are ever going to have peace and harmony on this planet. Love to you Shreve for all you do to make our planet a better place!!

  2. torre
    June 5th, 2018 @ 9:18 am

    beautiful post-thank you. thus subject has been on my mind. i am lucky to have access to local farms/farmers markets. appreciate the book links. and donation to food bank on the list for next billing cycle! i love that you do this!

  3. ELAINE CHECKLEY
    June 5th, 2018 @ 9:22 am

    And CONGRATULATIONS on the collaboration with the food bank ~ fabulous!!

  4. Barbara Sanchez
    June 5th, 2018 @ 9:24 am

    Shreve, you are doing a wonderful job! Well said in the fact that even if you can change some of the lives of these beautiful animals it is worth it. Someone has to start somewhere :) Thank you for these informative readings & for what you are doing for the positive!

    “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.”
    Job 12:7-10

  5. Carolyne
    June 5th, 2018 @ 10:34 am

    This post touched me on so many levels. Ubuntu!

  6. Karen Todd
    June 5th, 2018 @ 2:56 pm

    You are doing a wonderful thing Shreve! You cannot expect to change the world overnight. But believe me, you are setting in motion change one small bit at a time!!! Thank you for all you do!!!

  7. marg
    June 5th, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

    Well said !

  8. JulieJu Michaud
    June 5th, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

    I appreciate so much your thoughful compassionate sharing on food and animals.

  9. Erynn
    June 5th, 2018 @ 7:02 pm

    Amen sister. And thank you *so much for doing this. Every year I hope Star Brand Beef will come to Canada – but second best or maybe a tie for first would be that SBB becomes THE MODEL for how things are done. Everywhere. Thanks again Shreve. You’re so not alone in wanting things to be this way.

  10. Nimbrethil
    June 6th, 2018 @ 7:26 am

    Thank you for this, Shreve.

    I do sometimes think you hold, and promote,an excessively romanticized picture of your relationship with your animals, which I’m sure is one reason for at least some of your readers balking at the juxtaposition of talking about these animals as lovingly as if they were pets, when it is common knowledge that you will eventually kill and consume them. Another long-ago post comes to mind in which you referenced your animals giving their life in service to yours. As I recall, someone commented that that’s the wrong way to look at it – these animals don’t *give* us their lives, we *take* them. That is the heart of it. We raise them and take care of them for *our* benefit, not theirs. We may gives them the best lives possible and try to make their lives as comfortable and humane as possible, but at the end of the day, we’re doing it with the intention of slaughtering them as a food source. The mistake you make is framing your stories almost as if you believe the cows are fully cognizant of their eventual fate and embrace it of their own free will as if they would eagerly sacrifice their lives in return for the way you’ve treated them. This is plainly untrue – cows don’t exist for our sake and certainly don’t *plan* to give their lives in thanks to the beneficient treatment they receive.

    You write of your cows as if they are pets, when clearly they aren’t, because we don’t raise our pets with the end goal of eating them.

    All that said, I do think that the existing world order of meat and dairy consumption is one of the greatest ecological disasters on the planet, and the single most effective effort any of us could make on relieving the strain is to *sharply* reduce our consumption of both. Veganism and vegetarianism are great for some, but as you say, not realistic for everyone. It’s also not necessary for the entire planet to go vegan to “Save Our Planet.” But it would be of massive benefit–and is necessary, in my view–for *everyone* to cut way back.

    Big Cattle, as it were, is untenable, and the vast majority of us won’t suffer to treat meat as a condiment, something we treat as a luxury instead of expecting it to be cheaply available for every meal. We would also all be far better served to eliminate Big Cattle altogether and get our meat from *very* small local suppliers.

    I may disagree with your romanticizing of your operation, Shreve, but I applaud your work in educating people about the industrial meat industry, doing your own part to combat it, and the efforts you put into the humane raising and slaughter of your own animals.

    You do great work.

  11. Starr
    June 6th, 2018 @ 7:47 am

    Thank you Shreve for this inspiring post. You inspired my cross country scooter adventures with Vespa Vagabond many years ago. Your Star Brand Beef chronicles inspired me to seek out a local beef and pork farmer that raises his animals with the same care and compassion. No grains, grass fed and grass finished beef. He is just a few miles outside of the city, and his prices are about the same as WholeFoods. His small retail operation hosts other products (chicken, lamb, goat, cheese, and eggs) from other like minded local farmers.

    I know I am only one person, but I can make a big difference, if only for me. I am too far away on the east coast to enjoy delivery of your beef, but I can support my local farmer. Your care and contribution with your local Food Bank is super. Thank you for the inspiration at some many levels.

  12. Sheri Nugent
    June 6th, 2018 @ 9:18 am

    First of, Shreve, I disagree that you romanticize your animals. I am sorry for the person who wrote that, however kindly that it was, because they are missing the other dimensions and perspectives of the gifts provided all around us. Everything valuable isn’t about humans. Animals live in the present… not brooding over the future. Lesson for humans, I believe.

    I was just reading about a chef who no longer serves octopus because he experienced their intelligence on a trip to the Caribbean.

    I am 100% committed to consuming ethically raised meat – and you were instrumental in starting me down that road. I preach to anyone who listens. When people say they can’t afford it – I am dismayed at what they CAN afford. As you said… the expectation of cheap food is a value system we are changing. I see it everywhere. Costco now offers organic. That’s a huge influencer in changing the market. I think it will only become viable if it makes financial sense. Customers will drive that. The more people who insist on ethically raised meat – the more businesses will have to adapt to stay profitable. We DO make a difference.

    I was also deeply influenced by Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Also enjoyed Defending Beef. I have vegetarian friends – their way is to opt out of eating meat. My way is to influence the market with my dollars. To each his own.

    By the way – I have not bought Star Beef for two years now… I am just one person and am still working through the half beef I bought in 2016. And it is STILL AMAZING!

    With love and appreciation for all you do,

    Sheri

  13. Nimbrethil
    June 6th, 2018 @ 11:15 am

    Sheri,

    With respect, you don’t need to be sorry for me, and you perhaps should re-read my statement, because nothing in it suggests that I believe the “only things of value is about humans,” and certainly gives no indication that I have no appreciation for animals. That isn’t what I said at all.

    Humans are the dominant species, and animals live or die at our whim, directly and indirectly. For better or worse, that is the reality of the world. This is the case for species we’ve never even heard of, affected one way or the other by the human impact on the environment, and for livestock we raise for the express purpose of slaughter. It is our obligation, therefore, to manage the world responsibly, especially if we have a mind to preserve our *own* species. I simply do not think it is necessary to romanticize the human/livestock relationship as one that is co-equal when the sole reason livestock exists is to die for our sustenance.

  14. shreve
    June 6th, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

    N ~ do you have a link to the post of mine you reference? I’m curious to read it. I wonder if you’re thinking of this post in which I actually say the reverse – that *I* live in service to *them* : http://honeyrockdawn.com/2012/05/why-im-not-vegetarian-or-vegan/

    The cows I write about as pets actually are pets… the only thing I’m eating of Daisy is her milk. I don’t name my steers who I know will transition, as it’s hard enough as it is without that layer.

  15. Nimbrethil
    June 6th, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

    Shreve,

    That is indeed the post I had in mind, and it’s the source of the commenter pointing out that thinking of animals as giving their lives for us is the wrong way to frame the issue.

    I did find your statement about the fact that your animals will “die in service to me,” which I was remembering as “give their lives in service to me” The actual statement referring to animals giving their lives was found further down in comments, though, from someone else.

    Don’t you eat most of your dairy cattle’s offspring? The ones you don’t keep for future dairy cows, anyway? I remember back when this began, and you first bought a dairy cow. I do remember (I think I do, anyway) that you planned to eventually transition Baby, but then had other ideas for him.

    How many cows do you have now as opposed to when you first bought Daisy? (She was the first one, right?) Aside from Mike’s herd, I mean.

    It is too bad your delivery route doesn’t come any closer to me than Casper, WY, so I could buy a mini beef.

  16. Shreve
    June 6th, 2018 @ 4:07 pm

    N ~ all of Daisy’s offspring (birthed and adopted) are either still with me or died by Nature’s hand, not mine.

  17. Felyne
    June 6th, 2018 @ 4:20 pm

    On the romantising, I personally don’t read it way.

    I view it as trying to reconnect people with the fact that a food source was a living creature at some point. Whether they are pets or simply food doesn’t change that cows life quality – at least, Shreve’s point is it shouldn’t. Perhaps that is the point the commenter is missing, as to “not think it is necessary to romanticize the human/livestock relationship as one that is co-equal when the sole reason livestock exists is to die for our sustenance” is perhaps the entire viewpoint that is in discussion here.

    To ask directly, @Nimbrethil, how do you think living creatures breed for food should be treated? Do you agree with the feedlot system? You commend Shreve for the work she does, yet seem to criticise her in the some breath. What is your view on how these animals should experience life?

    For me, the bigger issue to address is human population and the disconnect between population size and the resource required to sustain that population. From wikipedia: “Global human population growth amounts to around 75 million annually”.

    To put a bit of context around that, my parents (2 people) have a vegetable garden that is around 20 feet by 40 feet and is always planted, but this is still not enough to fully sustain them. An apartment building has gone up in the city and it’s footprint is 65 x 85 feet, 24 floors housing say 240 people. I’ll just leave that here.

  18. Sheri Nugent
    June 6th, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

    I appreciate that we all care enough to engage in this conversation and how important the subject is.

    N – I thought a lot about what I wrote after I posted. From what you wrote I saw a person who is very logical and pragmatic – not given to anthropomorphism. I am a logical person too. I think where we differ is I see us and all of the earth’s creatures as part of an ecosystem. I think the non-human creatures deserve love and respect for who THEY are – not as vehicles for my comfort. That said, I recognize where we are in the food chain… as nature intended.

    Even if creatures are not pets, I send love and respect out to
    them. It may sound silly. But I love the fields of unnamed cattle and want to do everything I can to give them a happy life – what happy means to them.

    I’m not the most articulate – I just want to use my voice to speak up for those who can’t.

  19. Natalie
    June 6th, 2018 @ 5:52 pm

    I am a vegetarian but I appreciate everything you are doing. Keep up the wonderful work and thank you for keeping others informed!

  20. Marianne Mittermaier
    June 8th, 2018 @ 1:31 am

    you are the most compassionate honest wonderful special human i know of. I still belief and keep up hope because of you. You are so far away (i‘m from germany) but just to know you are here makes a world of difference for me and the animals and the land. Love you pure and simple.

  21. Sandy G.
    June 8th, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

    Shreve, I would like to agree with Marianne’s comments about you. She said what I believe about you. You have showed me and told me about Charlie, who would have been a wild coyote that no one knew. But you have loved him and showed us that coyotes can show loyalty, love and personality (just like out beloved pets do). Also, you have showed me Daisy who with her big eyes and ears and sweetness has taken my heart. I can see how you can love and care for her. And I think that doesn’t contradict what you do with your steers for beef. They as I think you say, are serving humans as nutrition that they need and who are treated humanely. In our system of life, with humans needing humanely raised meat that it is the best way to do it and to think about it. You are an intelligent and very caring and perceptive person that I admire and care about.
    Thank you for sharing yourself with me and others. It is enjoyable and enlightening to read your blogs. Love to you and all of your farmily!

  22. karl
    June 9th, 2018 @ 4:32 pm

    Thank you for all your wonderful words and photos over the years, Shreve.

    With regard to humanely-raised beef, I just wanted to mention Daniel Quinn’s book The Story of B (
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/214579.The_Story_of_B). He explores the idea that more and more biomass on the planet becoming human mass is a root problem with our culture’s survival. And that happens because the diversity in nature is converted to human food (corn, cattle, …).

    And it has always seemed to me that a step toward sustainability is practices such as yours, which do not try to wring every calorie out of the land for (short-term) human benefit (and long-term, or not-so-long-term) human disaster.

    Thank you.

    P.S. It is so backwards that food from these practices is more expensive than “conventional” (“factory”) food. If only the ag corporations of the world could not externalize their costs to the planet and to us. Sorry, I digress.

  23. Morgan Balavage
    June 11th, 2018 @ 9:59 pm

    I am vegan, and I read your blog and receive your email updates with admiration for what you’re doing to make changes to an inhumane, archaic, and unsustainable industry. I do not proselytize a plant-based diet; it is appropriate for my body, and I refuse to let the decisions that work for me bleed into judgment about what other’s choose to put into their bodies. That said, I do believe we all have a responsibility to tread as lightly upon this earth as possible. You are working miracles to undo the eons of hurt and fundamental misunderstanding of the value and purpose of living on this earth. I appreciate your candor and courage.

  24. Suzy Soro
    June 16th, 2018 @ 8:53 am

    Ever since I started reading HRD, my appetite for beef has gone way down. I didn’t eat a lot of it before but reading about your cows has made me see them in a whole new way. I’m currently living in Paris and they have a commercial where a man is petting a cow and they book look so sweet and then BAM, it’s a commercial for McDonalds and I now turn the channel if I see it.

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