Although I wasn’t raised on a cattle ranch, even as a youngster I adored the lifestyle. Can’t believe that this year, 2009, is the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite TV series — BONANZA. The Cartwright family seemed to me to be a real family and each week was another exciting episode in the lives of these cattlemen. Of course, Little Joe was the heartthrob, but who didn’t love Hoss? Adam was the responsible big brother and Father Ben was full of wonderful wisdom. At nine years old, the series became one of my strongest childhood memories of family and television; I can still hear the theme song as it filled the house and we all gathered around the old black/white set. I can’t believe it lasted 14 years!
I think the years spent watching BONANZA primed me for moving onto a family ranch — with a family heritage that dates over 120 years. Led by a patriarch, this family operation is now moving into the fifth generation, with sixth generation children growing up all around us. Time spent as a family, working cows, riding horses, doing chores, is a heritage that is unparalleled now in our urban, fast-paced society. And our lifestyle has changed, too, with the impact of technology and the rising level of governmental controls and regulations that seem to be coming at us from every quarter.
Being agriculturalists these days is not easy. It’s almost amazing to have sons and daughters returning to the farm or ranch. Why, when the return on time and money is so low; even our accountant wonders how we “make it work!” Cattle prices are lower than ever, but costs keep rising. The anti-beef people seem to have the ear of the liberal media and misrepresent our product, our lifestyle, and our impact on the environment. As one friend put it, it’s like trying to push a 3-wheeled vehicle up a hill and say you’re driving it!
The consumers are missing the boat when they attack U.S. farmers and ranchers. Even without the deluge of regulations, agriculturalists themselves do more for the environment than most U.S. citizens are even aware of. Cattlemen and Cattlewomen work hard to produce a product that is healthy and nutritious. OLD myths STILL fill the internet with their biased and poorly researched propaganda. If only people realized the impact this negative press will have on their own future as consumers! Farmers and ranchers are struggling to make ends meet and the future is looking bleaker for many.
Beef IS a healthy option and has much to recommend it. More than that, cattle producers CARE deeply about their animals and work to protect them and ensure their good health. For one thing, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was initiated in 1987 to “provide cattle producers with the tools and training necessary to assure animal health and well-being as well as provide a safe, quality product.” BQA provides guidelines for beef cattle production and works to increase consumer confidence. In addition, the GUIDELINES FOR CARE AND HANDLING OF BEEF CATTLE, have been endorsed by the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and the American Assoc. of Bovine Practitioners, plus the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants. It hurts EVERYONE when animals are mistreated, whether in the pasture or in the feedlot, and ranchers expect that their cattle will leave their farms and be treated humanely. It is NOT just the consumer who expects this quality treatment of animals!
Truly, if Americans don’t learn to appreciate the life of the rancher or farmer soon, their pocketbooks will feel the loss. Sadly, as mentioned earlier, agriculturalists do NOT get a fair hearing from most media or from television in general. We’ve come a long way from the days of heralding the lifestyle of historic farms and ranches, and most people have lost touch with their own agricultural roots.