Just got a customer retention e-mail from Niman Ranch that describes what its cattle eat in the winter. An excerpt:
When our cattle come to us from pasture, we feed them a ration of corn, wheat, barley, molasses, soybean and hay. The ration, which we have developed and refined over the years with the help of our veterinarians, doesn’t change depending on the season. But our cattle’s eating habits do.
Our cattle eat about 40 pounds of ration per day. When the winter comes and it gets colder, the cattle tend to eat more, to help them keep warmer. They almost have a sixth sense, letting them know a storm is coming, and may increase their consumption upto a range of 45 to 47 pounds of ration a day. When the storm arrives, interestingly, they back away from feed and may decrease to 38 pounds.
Their ration is 60 to 70 per cent dry matter. The liquid part of their feed consists of molasses whey and corn silage.
We’ve gotten so far removed from the processes that create the foods we eat that hearing about the eating habits of cattle is exotic and yet, somehow, comforting. I remember my rancher dad coming to visit me when I was living in Manhattan. His comment was something like, "So many people. Who is raising the food to feed them all?"
Of course, Niman Ranch’s e-mail message is especially comforting in this age of agribusiness and mad cow disease, when you’re often not really sure (and you probably don’t want to know) where your food is coming from. I just found it an interesting, amusing — and effective — sort of commentary on modern life. It might even drive me to buy more meat online.