The End, The Beginning

This morning I stood in a meat locker surrounded by my hanging sides of beef. Talk about intimacy. I have wanted to write about the last days, and have, for myself ~ but haven’t published any of it here because I have learned that sometimes, while emotions and thoughts might seem crystal clear to me, I don’t always express them clearly enough for The Internet and this topic is too potent and too dear to risk misunderstanding. But it’s time to try.

Two weeks before my little herd was slated for processing, Mike and I trailered them from their huge spring pasture to a lush smaller pasture just a quarter mile from home where it would be easier to sort them off when the time came. Over the course of their lives, I have trailed them half the time and trailered them half the time ~ from the beginning, I knew their last day would entail a trailer ride to the processor and I didn’t want that to be a new and stressful experience for them. Trailering them to various grazing land is always a long, hard day for Mike and me, because it takes so many trips, but it’s quick and easy for the animals, and they walk right into the trailer in small groups and think nothing of it. This means so much to me.

When the time came, we took them to the processor in small batches over the course of a week. I chose the processor I did because they are incredibly good at what they do and they care deeply about their work ~ and the animals. It’s just two women and three men, small and personal, and stereotypes do not fit here ~ they are patient and gentle. On the first morning, one of the men looked right into my eyes and said, “I can see these animals are loved,” and that comment reaffirmed my confidence that I was leaving them in the right hands (I did not stay for the slaughter).

That day, I cried several times but it was not for the reason most people assumed, that my animals were being killed. I see it more as a transition than death ~ they were transitioning to beef, to food for people who need it and will respect it and deeply appreciate it, just as I do when I eat meat. No, I cried because of the sheer intensity of being this closely involved in the process. The reality of the process. Stores make it so easy to disconnect from the process ~ whether it’s a grocery store or a clothing store or whatever store ~ because in that context, we ARE disconnected. But the process is potent. It demands acknowledgement and responsibility. It leaves no doubt that waste is disrespectful.

It soothed my soul to know that in addition to the meat, every organ and bone of every beef was spoken for. That every lower leg with the hoof, usually thrown away, was going to someone’s dog. To know that even an ear and an eyeball were going to fuel a child’s imagination (one customer emailed me to say her daughter was in the midst of the Harry Potter books and had asked for an ear and an eyeball with which to make spells). The transition of my herd was not in vain.

When I began this venture two and half years ago, everyone in town who knew about it thought it would fail. Even Mike. Mike and certain friends were wholly supportive, but skeptical nonetheless. I’m so grateful to all of you who have allowed me, over the past several years, to get to know you ~ for even though I don’t know what any of you look like, I knew that our vision and values aligned. I knew, deep down, that this was not a great risk or outrageous fantasy, but simply a step in the right direction that we are taking together.

On a lighter note ~ the beef looks fantastic. The processors were amazed by the sheer size of each beef and by the quality of the meat. It is perfectly marbled ~ the holy grail of beef ~ yet lean overall, without the thick, heavy layer of outer fat that they usually have to trim off with conventional grain-fed beef. I’m really pleased, and think that everyone who ordered will be, too.


We did it!!!  The first year of Star Brand Beef is sold out!  Wow and yeehaw and thank you!  This is really profound and exciting.  I have a few unpaid invoices (everyone has until Monday) so if you were hoping to get in on it, email me and I’ll put you on a wait list in case any of the remaining orders fall through.

Other tidbits ~ Sir Baby is improving daily.  His wound is still in the healing process and, with this kind of injury, it’s a long process.  But I see daily improvement and he’s in great spirits.  Thanks so much for your well wishes!

There was a fire here, though nothing remotely close to what’s going on in Colorado, and I do have pics and a post written but haven’t had a moment to
type it up (I hand write everything).  Coming soon…..

AND: I’ll be doing some behind the scenes work on the Daily Coyote blog so it will be down for a period of time over the weekend ~ not to worry!  My computer genius web man is fixing up some back end stuff and we’ll have it up again asap.

Why I’m Not Vegetarian (or Vegan)

It’s certainly not for lack of caring about animals. But before I get into details ~
I have noticed, over the years, that conversations about food and diet often veer into a similar realm as those about politics or religion. I don’t want that to happen here or in the comment section. I’m often asked how I can care so deeply for the cows and calves we raise and still eat meat ~ in answering that here, I am simply sharing my choices and what works for me; I’m not trying to “convert” anybody. I think every body has different needs and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet.

Onward! I was really naive about food until I turned 26. I didn’t particularly care about food ~ it was not a priority in my life and I just ate whatever. I thought food was food, that all food was pretty much fine, because why would they have commercials on TV for Big Macs if they were bad for you? Naive.

Then I became devastatingly ill, to the point where I had to sit on the bathroom floor to brush my teeth because I didn’t have the energy to stand at the sink, and was battling an unyielding depression. It took me six months to discover the root was gluten intolerance and when I cut gluten out of my diet, all the horrible symptoms and effects disappeared. That period of illness was the worst six months of my life and it was the best thing that happened to me. Because everything changed. I realized that what I put into my body affected how I feel and how I function. I started paying attention to my body and I started paying attention to food.

I went vegan for a bit, but soon realized my body functions best with animal protein. It’s just the way it is with me. Some people thrive on a vegan diet and I didn’t. And so I began incorporating raw organic milk and cheese and grass-finished pasture-raised beef back into my diet, all of which I could buy in stores as I was living in San Francisco at the time.

These choices regarding animal products, however, were not rooted in altruism; they were totally self-centered. Since I had discovered that food = health and health = power, I wanted the animal protein I was eating to be as pure and natural as possible ~ when you eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you consume what the animal consumed, and factory-raised products are filled with antibiotics, hormones, and unhealthy fats because of the conditions in which the animals are raised.

Yet in my research surrounding this, I began learning about the absolute horrors of commercial farming and that is when I became passionate about the animals. I vowed that if I was going to eat an animal, I would make sure that animal never spent time in a feedlot or factory farm; that the animal’s life was as happy and peaceful as possible before that life was surrendered for mine.

I don’t ignore the fact that an animal dies so that I may eat meat. I don’t take it lightly. But to reconcile that fact, I have to know the animal had the happiest, most stress-free life possible and the quickest, most stress-free death possible. I eat elk that Mike hunts, because he hunts with a rifle and is so skilled that the animals he takes are dead before they fall. I also eat the beef that we raise, because I know the animal’s life was good, that it was loved and free, and I am with it till the end. There’s no feedlot, no slaughterhouse, just a trip down the dirt road to a small USDA-certified processor run by a woman who is smart and kind.

Because I am so adamantly against the industries of terror and abuse that are conventional farming, I haven’t eaten chicken in ten years, and I only eat eggs from Mike’s chickens (when they stop laying I go without) and dairy from Daisy (when she dries off for two months before each calf I go without). I feel really lucky to be so “close to the source” via my life in Wyoming. But it’s an ongoing process ~ just the other day I realized my favorite gluten-free bread which I buy upon occasion is made with eggs, and these are very likely factory-farmed eggs. So I switched to a different brand of bread that is vegan and gluten free.

Going back to the original question, how can I invest so much care in a orphan calf, or keep a hypothermic calf in my house, when I know it’s going to die anyway? Because I love each calf. Because I have so much respect for these animals and am so grateful for them. I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me. And in the meantime, I want their lives to be filled with respect and freedom and peace.

This is kind of a stream of consciousness blog post and I’m sure there are points I glossed over or points I may have missed, so please leave any questions you may have in the comment section and I will answer them. I can anticipate one question: How can I feel so strongly against feedlots and yet help raise calves that are sent off to that torture?  I don’t. We don’t. But that is another long story which I will save for another day.

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