Common potential concerns about animal care Q & A
Is animal welfare a priority for cattle farmers and ranchers?
Absolutely. We are in the business of caring for animals. Providing an optimal environment for our cattle, with ample food, water and healthcare, is the right thing to do and it creates an ideal setting for them to grow. We take our responsibility to our cattle very seriously, and we believe even one instance of mistreatment is too many.
We stand behind this principle with educational programs, like the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, that outline the essential elements for cattle care from the farm to the processing facility, including guidelines for providing proper nutrition, following disease prevention practices and maintaining safe and humane facilities for cattle.
What kind of conditions are cattle raised in?
Most beef cattle are born and spend the majority of their lives on the farms and ranches like those you may see along highways and country roads, grazing in herds on large pastures. At 12 to 16 months of age, most beef cattle are then taken to a feedlot where they are fed a nutritionally-balanced and energy-rich diet for approximately four to six months. Cattle in a feedlot are typically separated into herds of 100 animals and live in pens that allow about 125 to 250 square feet of room per animal, and they are carefully monitored to ensure optimum health. After cattle reach the appropriate weight, they are sold to a processor.
Have corporations replaced family farmers?
No. In fact, more than 97 percent of U.S. beef cattle farms and ranches are family farms. Also, most beef cattle operations are smaller than you might think; according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the typical herd of beef cattle in the U.S. is only 50 animals.
Is crowding animals together in a feedlot bad for animals and the environment?
No. In fact, feedlots allow for the efficient raising of beef utilizing fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. And “crowding” is a common misperception. Feedlots provide an average of 125 – 250 square feet per animal, providing plenty of room for cattle to run, stretch and lay down. Feedlot cattle often intentionally “crowd” themselves together in one corner of the pen. This behavior is normal for herd animals like cattle. Additionally, environmental factors like water quality, air quality and land utilization are monitored and managed in feedlots daily. In fact, most large feedlots have environmental engineers on staff or on contract to ensure the operation is in compliance with the strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that govern concentrated animal feeding operations. Feedlots also allow for specially-trained workers to constantly monitor the health and well-being of the animals.
More information: Animal Welfare Fact Sheet