Subscriptions click here for 20% off! E-Mail:

Git Home!


Not just cheeseburgers.
© 1998 by John Bardwell, RANGE magazine, Carson City, Nevada


Unless you’re in one of the many areas of the cattle business, you just don’t think about cows. To most Americans, cows are just those big, slow moving hairy things that dot the countryside along the interstate. Most folks these days have never touched a live cow, and a lot of those folks don’t even make the connection between cows and cheeseburgers. So, until a bunch of new age environmental cases and professional vegetarians started badmouthing ranchers and cattle, all most of us needed to know about bovine issues was that a T-bone is a great steak and leather makes the best shoes. The cow is getting a bad rap.
     Originally, cattle were domesticated for a couple of good reasons food and labor. In addition to giving milk and meat, cows and oxen pulled our ancestors’ plows and wagons. And because our ancestors were mostly poor as dirt, they didn’t like to waste anything, especially something as big as an expired cow. Well, it didn’t take a bow-and-arrow scientist to figure out how to make clothing, sandals and shelter out of cowhide. Then some other guy discovered that boiled hooves tasted awful but made great glue. His wife learned to make tools and domestic doo-dads from bone and horn like those nifty horn cocktail cups so perfect for slugging down mead. They lit their miserable hovel with tallow candles and, every year or so, they washed up with some soap, rendered from cow fat.
     Some will argue that although cattle were important to the survival of our dimwitted forebears, modern man is better off without them (except, perhaps, as household pets).
     But let’s consider the bovine. Most of the world agrees that beef tastes good?a lot better than tofu. And a piece of lean beef is healthy food, full of protein and minerals (the fat has better uses such as antifreeze, brake fluid, lubricants and other less tasty stuff). We get dozens of household products from left-over cow. The list includes handy things like soaps, detergents, and deodorants. Granted, old hippie tree-huggers don’t have much use for those things, but the rest of us think they’re pretty necessary. The cow is also an important ingredient in paints, plastics, textiles and tires.
     Now consider that the cow is a ruminating drug factory, its organs and glands producing dozens of chemicals, blood factors and enzymes, like insulin, that improve and save human life.
     Even the most strident anti-bovine activist will admit that the cow has some value, but at a terrible cost to the planet and its starving multitudes. For starters, the multitudes could do with a helping of pot roast. But there are the cries that cattle use too much of America’s land that should be used to grow crops to feed the world. Fact is, about 40 percent of our agricultural land isn’t worth squat for squash, but cows do just fine, chomping away on tough grass that very few other animals can digest. And we get tender filet and double fudge chocolate ice cream. The world gets medicines, powdered milk, tires and shoes. That’s a good trade in any book. And while cows roam around grazing, they aerate the soil with those pointy hooves, stomp grass seed down where it can sprout and then fertilizes it all before moving on.
     What about greenhouse gases, global warming and the end of civilization? Doom-sayers blame cows for maybe two percent of the bad gas in our atmosphere. Cows have been passing methane longer than humans, and much longer than Chevy pickups, without punching holes in the ozone. So if the polar ice cap melts and Los Angeles is under 20 feet of surf, it won’t be Bossie’s fault. And if civilization goes all to hell, we’ll need cows a lot more than we’ll need environmentalists.
     So, when you take time to consider the cow, you realize it’s a lot more than potential prime rib. Even if you never come face-to-face with a real, live cow, it will still be an important part of your everyday life, and a lot better life, at that.

*     *      *

John Bardwell is a gourmet cook who spent his summers on a California dairy farm. He seldom prepares a dish without red meat?at least when RANGE’s editor shows up. He is this magazine’s design consultant. NOTE The American National CattleWomen offer brochures and posters which detail the many ways cattle enrich our lives and enhance the planet, along with information on the many by-products that come from cattle.  RANGE appreciates their help with this story. This year’s educational material is entitled, "Wow That Cow" and stickers and buttons are available. For information and costs, call 303-694-0313.


Git Home!

To Subscribe: Please click here for subscription or call 1-800-RANGE-4-U for a special web price

Copyright © 1998-2005 RANGE magazine
For problems or questions regarding this site, please contact Dolphin Enterprises