Welcome to the Peterson Farm Blog!

We are glad you are here! This blog was created for us to address the many questions people have about farmers and modern day agriculture. We hope that our blog will be a source of answers for people who are searching for the truth! Feel free to leave a comment or question and we will do our best to get back to you. Thanks!

Introduction: All I Do Is Farm (The Blog)

Greg Peterson: Advocate for Truth

  1. GMOs
  2. Livestock Production
    1. Introduction: Why do we raise animals for food and products?
    2. The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle
    3. The Life Cycle of Dairy Cattle
    4. The Life Cycle of Swine
    5. The Life Cycle of Poultry
    6. Welfare of Today’s Livestock Animals (Coming Soon)
    7. Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife
  3. Family Farming, Industrial Farming, Factory Farming
  4. Organic Food and Conventional Food (Coming Soon)
  5. Chemical Usage in Agriculture (Coming Soon)

The Peterson Farm Bros Beef With Chipotle

  1. Part 1: The Peterson Farm Bros Beef With Chipotle
  2. Part 2: The Definition of a Family Farmer
  3. Part 3: The Definition of a Humanely Raised Animal
  4. Part 4: The Definition of Ethical Behavior

Introduction: Why Do We Raise Animals for Food and Products?

  • Why do we use livestock products for human use and consumption? 
  • Should I feel bad when I eat meat because an animal died to become that meat? 
  • Why can’t animals be set free to live as long of a life as possible?

Livestock animals (Cattle, Horses, Chickens, Turkeys, Pigs, Sheep, etc.) have been a huge part of human existence since the beginning of our civilization. Humans have used animals for meat, milk, eggs, labor, and clothing for thousands of years. But do we really need animal agriculture? Must innocent animals lose their lives? Why can’t we just rely on fruits, veggies, and grains to feed and clothe the masses? Here are 10 reasons why we have animal agriculture.

1. Animal Products are the Reason Most Livestock Animals are Born

The fact that humans eat and use animal products is the main reason most livestock animals are alive in the first place, even though in certain cases the process theoretically ends their lives as well. If you believe animals like cows, pigs, chickens, or sheep deserve a chance at life, you must believe in the use of animals for humans, because without us, 95% of these animals would never be born in the first place. Farmers help bring these animals into this world and give their lives meaning and purpose as they leave it (food and products). The only question that remains is whether or not the quality of life for these animals is worth them being born in the first place, which will be addressed in the subsequent “animal welfare” blogs found on the home page of our blog.

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2. Livestock Infrastructure Produces Billions of Pounds of Food & Products

Meat, milk, eggs, and thousands of other food products come from animals. Animal products are found in a vast amount of foods consumed today. Furthermore, animal by-products are used extensively in almost every walk of life. While you may be able to avoid eating animal products, it is nearly impossible to avoid using animal by-products. The infrastructure of the livestock industry has allowed for thousands of these products to be made affordably, efficiently, and sustainably.

If we did away with livestock products, we would have to reinvent the infrastructure of our food supply and product supply, which would prove to be extremely costly. Thousands of farmers would have their current farming methods they have developed over centuries taken from them. Technology is what has allowed 1 farmer to feed 155 people today instead of 27 people in 1950. Livestock technology is a huge part of that. If we were to abandon animal agriculture, we would see a drastic decrease in food production and an drastic increase in food prices. This would be taking us in the opposite direction of producing enough food to feed a growing population.

3. Millions of Grassland Acres Would Go to Waste Without Livestock

Millions of acres of land are not suitable for crop production (due to slope of terrain, soil type, rainfall, etc.) and are therefore grazed by livestock animals. In fact over 13 million square miles are grazed by livestock animals around the world. These animals help maintain the ecosystem of these grass acres and convert the grass into food for humans. If we took those livestock animals away, the millions of acres of grassland would become unproductive instead of providing billions of pounds of food each year. If our goal is to feed 9 billion people by 2050, this would be a huge step backward in reaching that goal.

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4. Livestock Animals Roaming “Free” Is Not Plausible

Currently there are over 11 billion birds, 87 million cattle, 67 million pigs, and 5 million sheep used in U.S. livestock production today. Farmers breed these animals, feed these animals, and protect these animals. They are domesticated. If livestock production ceased, the incentive for farmers to spend their lives caring for these animals would be gone. Farmers would no longer be there to take care of these animals, they would no longer be maintaining fences, caring for the sick, protecting them from predators, etc. Animals would either die out, live in the wild, or live in a zoo. In the wild, livestock animals would no longer be producing food, products, and labor for humans, they would become road hazards and would get into yards, gardens, and public places. They would be a nuisance. The reason these domesticated animals have survived over the generations is based on their importance to humans. Even if sanctuaries were built for large numbers of animals, only a small percentage of the amount we have today would exist.

5. Animal Food Products Taste Amazing

Although tastes and preferences vary tremendously throughout society, most people would agree that the best tasting foods involve animal products! A world without burgers, steaks, eggs, milk, and ice cream would be a sad scenario.

6. Livestock Food Products Provide Essential Nutrients

While it is entirely possible to consume a diet free of livestock products, it can be quite difficult. Many people in this world do not have the extra money, time, or discipline to spend avoiding products from animals. Meat, dairy and eggs contain essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Again, the infrastructure of livestock production has allowed for these products to be low in cost and easily accessed.

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7. The Livestock Industry Employs Millions of People

If animal agriculture did not exist, millions of people would have to find a job doing something else. This includes jobs in animal production, processing, sales, nutrition, and health. As many know, finding a job can be a struggle no matter what industry you are a part of. Livestock farmers and ranchers have developed and passed down skills and talents over hundreds of years learning how to take care of livestock animals. Colleges and universities around the world have trained thousands of people in different areas of livestock production (see below). Abandoning all of that would be a waste of time and resources and would leave many searching for a job, possessing skills that are no longer needed.

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8. The Livestock Industry is a Huge Part of the Economy

The livestock industry provides massive economic benefits to many different countries around the world. In the United States, the numbers are as follows:

  • 1,851,000 jobs
  • $346 billion in total economic output
  • $60 billion in household income
  • $15 billion in income taxes paid, and
  • $6 billion in property taxes paid

(Source: http://igrow.org/livestock/profit-tips/economic-benefits-of-the-livestock-industry/#sthash.O9ARKhNT.dpuf)

Many countries are struggling economically, but agriculture is usually one of the bright spots in an economy. If animal agriculture were removed from the economy of a country like the U.S., it would be devastating.

9. Many People Rely on Animal Agriculture for Survival

Hundreds of thousands of farm families around the world rely on livestock animals for their survival. There are places where livestock animals are the only thing a family owns besides their home. In wealthier societies, we do have a choice of whether or not to eat meat, but in many places that is not an available choice.

Source: http://bit.ly/1LuXlF7

Even in wealthy countries, livestock animals can provide the majority of a farm family’s income due to location (surrounded by pastureland), amount of land owned (not enough to make a living on crops), and climate (grow crops in the summer, livestock in the winter). Families could relocate and adapt to make a living apart from animal agriculture, but it would be unfair and extremely costly to them.

10. Livestock Animals Are a Huge Part of Our Culture

Animal agriculture is a huge part of human history and culture. Livestock farmers and ranchers view working with animals as more than a job. It is a lifestyle that is deeply ingrained in who they are and their purpose here on earth. Millions of children have been raised taking care of livestock to teach them how to do chores, develop a work ethic, and spend time with their family. You can see that in our video, “Takin’ Care of Livestock” linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc1X0CMDDNY&feature=youtu.be

Bottom line: You can choose to avoid animal products for a variety of reasons. You can work to improve animal welfare. And you can continue to ask questions to help keep livestock farmers and ranchers in check. However, the practice of animal agriculture is a very important part of society and the people who are involved in the industry should be supported when they are doing a good job. To see what the current state of the livestock industry looks like, please read the rest of our blogs detailing the life cycles and welfare of different livestock animals. And please, feel free to leave questions at the bottom of this page!

  1. The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle
  2. The Life Cycle of Dairy Cattle
  3. The Life Cycle of Swine
  4. The Life Cycle of Poultry
  5. Welfare of Today’s Livestock Animals (Coming Soon)
  6. Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife

The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle Production

Stages of Beef Cattle Production

1.   Beginning Stage (Bull + Cow = Calf)

2A. Grass Finished (Middle Stage – Final Stage)

2B. Grain Finished: Backgrounding (Middle Stage)

2C. Grain Finished: Finishing Lot (Final Stage)

  1. Harvest and Processing (End Stage)

Beginning Stage (Bull + Cow = Calf)

Size: Typically in large pastures with 50-100 head of cattle

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: 99%

Diet: Mama Cow’s milk until old enough to eat grass

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Birth Weight – Sell Weight: 150 lbs – 450 lbs

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months

The beginning stage of life for both grass-finished and grain-finished cattle is the same for the first 8-10 months of the animal’s life. All beef cattle eat grass for at least the first half of their lives.

All beef cattle are born to cows. The natural way for a cow to have a calf is unassisted in an open field or pasture. However, if a rancher knows a cow is about to give birth, they will often bring the cow into a barn or shelter for two reasons. The first reason is to protect both the cow and the newborn calf from extreme cold, rain, or snow. Calves are often born in the winter and going from a cozy womb to the freezing cold can result in sickness or death. The second reason is to make it easier for the rancher to help the cow give birth in case there are problems. Often times a rancher will have to “pull” a calf from a cow in order to reduce the pain and sometimes even save the lives of both the animals.

After birth, the calf will be ear-tagged or branded for identification and will nurse off of its mother for the next 6 to 8 months. Eventually the calf will start to graze grass alongside its mother until it is weaned from milk entirely. Up to this point, the lives of all beef cattle are the same. From here they will either become reproducing cows/bulls or they will be fed out for beef consumption.

Life Cycle of a Cow/Bull

Size: Typically in large pastures with 50 to 100 head of cattle

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: 99%

Diet: Grass, Forage, Roughage (Grazing)

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 1,500 – 2,000 lbs

Time in Cycle: 5 – 10 years

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups based on their gender (male bulls, female heifers). Cows are heifers that were bred by bulls and had a baby calf. Cows have a 9 month gestation period and typically have a calf every 12 months. All cows spend their entire lives (Approx. 7-10 years) grazing on grass or forage and mothering baby calves. When they are no longer able to have calves, cows are harvested for beef (see final stage).

Bulls are calves that are not castrated and bred specifically with dominant genetics to produce superior offspring when fully grown. There are typically 2 or 3 older bulls per cowherd of 50. Bulls can sense when cows go into heat and will mate with them at that time. Ranchers also artificially inseminate cows with bull semen when they are in heat to help guarantee the cow will have calf.

2A. Life Cycle of Grass Finished Beef (Middle to Final Stage)

Size: 100 head – 3,000 head

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: Approx. 99%

Diet: Grass, Forage, Roughage (Grazing)

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 450 pounds to market weight

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months – 3 years

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups of bulls and heifers. Some become steps B and C (Bulls and Cows). The others will be castrated (if they are bulls) and will spend the remainder of their days grazing on grass until they are fat enough to harvest.

2B. Life Cycle of Grain Finished Beef (Middle Stage)

Size: Between 500 and 2,000 head

Location: Typically Midwest/Western USA

Family Owned: Approx. 90%

Diet: Grass, Hay, Roughage with increasing amounts of silage and grain

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 450 pounds – 850 pounds

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months – 12-14 months

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups (Large, small, bulls, heifers) and sold to the next producer. Calves are bought and sold all over the country, which provides a very competitive market, resulting in lower costs. A lot of the calves in the east are shipped out to the west where weather, food supply and conditions are better suited to grow them. The calves spend their next year of life at a backgrounding feedlot like ours. When calves arrive at a backgrounding feedlot, they spend the first couple of days recovering from the stress of being sold, traveling up to several hours, and adjusting to a new place. Our new calves are greeted with a bunk full of feed and hay and a smaller pen that opens into shelter from the elements. The smaller pen helps keep them close to their food and water so they know where to find it. We also pitch hay by hand to help them get used to us. Within the next week, calves are typically vaccinated to help prevent them from possible sickness during their stay. The calves are then ear tagged if they were branded or re-ear tagged if they were already tagged.

The next 3-5 months for cattle in a backgrounding feedlot is spent eating. At the beginning of their stay the diet will be primarily grasses and forages with only a hint of grains being introduced. By the end of their stay, cattle will be consuming about 75% forages and 25% grain. Watch the video for more on what we feed our cattle in a backgrounding lot. Each day, cattlemen will survey each animal to determine if they are sick. If cattle happen to get sick in a backgrounding feedlot, they will be administered antibiotics to help them fight the sickness. They will be separated from the rest of the herd until they recover. The risk of sickness is more prevalent in a feedlot compared to on grass, but only a small minority of the animals ever has to deal with sickness.

When the animals have reached the weight of approximately 850 pounds, they are once again sorted by weight and sold to a finishing yard to be fattened for market. Most cattle are not shipped as far in this step as they were in the previous step, resulting in minimal stress on the animal.

2C. Life Cycle of Grain Finished Beef (Final Stage)

Size: 3,000 + head

Location: Midwestern to Western USA

Family Owned: Approx 50%

Diet: Silage, Grain

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 850 pounds to 1300 pounds

Time in Cycle: 4-6 months

The finishing stage of grain-finished beef usually takes place in large finishing yards in the west. This stage is similar to the middle stage in most everything but diet. Cattle once again recover from transfer, are given a second vaccination, and are given antibiotics if they get sick. The primary differences between finishing yards and backgrounding lots are the size of operation and the diet content. Most finishing yards have a large capacity for thousands of animals.

Slaughter/Harvest of All Beef Cattle (End Stage)

When cattle are at a finished weight (Approx. 1300 pounds) they are taken to a processing plant to be harvested and made into beef as well as many other products. If you would like to learn more about this process, please watch the following video (it is somewhat graphic in nature):

Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, and Wildlife

Humans: Many humans live extremely luxurious lives. However, there is more human suffering in our world today than many realize. There are 30 million human slaves still living in the world. 80% of those involve sexual exploitation. There are 3 billion people living in poverty. 1.3 billion of those people live on less than $1.25 a day. There are 870 million people who are chronically undernourished. Each year, 4 million women suffer from domestic abuse and 3 million children suffer from child abuse. 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless. Millions also suffer every day from diseases, injuries, emotional trauma, and mental illness.

Livestock: There are over 10 billion livestock animals in the United States. These animals (including the “factory farmed” ones) are provided with plentiful food and water. Livestock animals are never homeless, undernourished, or sexually abused. Most of their lives are spent eating, standing, lying down, or sleeping. They are in most cases protected from predators, harsh weather, and each other (power struggles can result in injury or death). The goal of every livestock farmer is to minimize stress as it results in the greatest growth in production. So, while a few cases of abuse to livestock animals are reported each year, this practice is certainly not the norm, and would be considered extremely rare in every livestock circle. The majority of livestock farmers take better care of their animals than some parents take care of their kids. Disease, injury, and illness affect livestock animals in similar ways to humans, but farmers and veterinarians do everything they can to prevent these causes of suffering. As many are quick to point out, livestock animals are indeed slaughtered at the end of their lives, but today’s slaughtering methods are as humane as possible (no pain or stress to the animal) and provide food and products to millions of people around the globe.

Wildlife: Animals in the wild spend their entire lives hunting for food and water. They endure disease, injury, illness, and pain just like humans and livestock. They also must fend for themselves from the weather. Each wild animal (that is not on the top of the food chain) is at the risk of being ripped apart and eaten by predators and/or killed off by animals of the same species in power struggles. Human activity (Cities, roads, industry, etc.) threatens the existence of thousands of species each year. Millions of animals suffer and die in nature. The deaths of wildlife animals (excluding hunting) provide little to no benefit to humans in terms of food or products.

Pets: Most pets have extremely comfortable lives, similar to livestock. Food, water, health care, and protection from the elements are provided to pets. Pets spend most of their lives lying around in a stress free environment. However, 6-8 million pets are placed in animal shelters each year. 3-4 million of them are euthanized each year. The death of these pets provides little to no benefit to humans in terms of food or products.

In conclusion: We live in a world full of suffering. We should be doing everything we can to help to reduce and eliminate this suffering in every species around the world. However, we need to keep our priorities in check:

  • We should do our absolute best to take care of our pets, but they are more of a luxury than a necessity. (Their lives/deaths do not provide products to humans)
  • We should do all we can to protect the environment and ecosystems of wildlife animals, but how can we reduce the suffering that goes on naturally in nature? (The wild while natural and beautiful is also a gruesome, dangerous place)
  • Humans undergo the most suffering and abuse on the list. That is extremely sad to me. We should do our best to take care of our own and think of helping others more than we think of pleasing ourselves. Reducing human suffering should be of the highest priority!
  • Livestock animals, on the other hand, are among the creatures that undergo the least amount of suffering on this list. Yet so many people complain and point fingers at the treatment of these animals. Where is the uproar about human suffering? Why aren’t more people human activists? There are definitely ways we can improve our treatment of livestock animals and we should pursue those. However, to expect perfection in livestock production (or any of these categories) is unrealistic in an imperfect world. The use of livestock animals provide food, products, money, and labor to billions of people. Their lives (and inevitable deaths) are what many humans rely on to survive in poverty-stricken countries.

Most would agree that a human life is more valuable than any other life on the planet, but even if you disagree with that statement you must realize that if you want to reduce suffering here on the earth, it has to start with humans. It has to start with us!