Saturday, August 30, 2014

How Now, Black Cow? (And Other Beefs)

I about laughed my socks off when I saw the packaging for the bologna that my wife had gotten. It proudly (and foolishly) proclaimed that it was made from “Angus Beef.” Having been in business myself, I understand marketing is a needed part of the picture. However, since the “beef” in bologna is largely hearts, tongues, lungs, lips, udders, trimmings and pink slime, does the color of the animal’s hide really matter? Let’s get real. Incidentally, the first three ingredients were beef, water and corn sweetener. The beef stock (beef flavored water) listed further down the list is, I suppose, to make it taste more like real meat.

On an only slightly related note, one of the other drivers managed to get his son on the payroll as a shop and grounds helper. He’s a good kid, but a bit clueless, like most of us were at that 16-18 age. Knowing his dad was a former dairy farmer that still had cattle, I asked him what breed of cattle they have currently. He said that he didn’t know, but maybe Angus. I asked him the color, and he told me that they were black, so I agreed that they were probably Angus. It sort of shocked me that a kid could grow up, and still live, on a farm and not know what kind of cattle his father raises. I assume the kid doesn’t plan to be a farmer.

That’s one rather sad thing that I see on my driving through the country on my job—the number of farms growing up into brush and timber. Often, the old homesteads stand unused, their houses and barns empty and deteriorating. Generations of children may have been raised there, but hard times and lack of interest has scattered those grown children to the winds. Many folks still live in the country, but they don’t live “on” or “from” the land. They merely live a city-style life in the country. I fear that this country has largely lost its ability to take care of itself. Few folks remain that know how to do anything, even raise a garden.

I see very few square balers being used these days, having been replaced by the big round balers. I miss having cattle, but I must admit that one thing I DON”T miss is stacking bales against the barn roof, when it’s 120 degrees in the loft and you have to watch out for wasps. The round bales supposedly let you get out of the expenses of needing a barn and the extra help to handle hay. Everyone farms from the tractor seat these days. I lived through that bale change, though, and it wasn’t because of the costs that folks around here made the switch; it was because summer help wasn’t available at ANY price. Most kids these days won’t work that hard, preferring to flip burgers, or simply sponge off their folks until they get shamefully old.

I worked many a day pitching bales for a dollar an hour. A boy down the road parlayed his summer days, and dad’s mostly unused haying equipment, into a well-paying business during his high school years. He’s one of the few folks around here younger than me who still farms on the side. It’s a sad day for agriculture and for American readiness, when guys like him are such a rarity. © 2014


Chickenmom said...

There is a nice dairy farm down the road from us. His cows are always clean and it's fun to watch the calves romp in the fields. As for hay, it's very expensive-$5.00 a bale. Hate to see what it will cost this winter.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Grocery store meat is being pumped full of what the government calls broth. We butchered our steers and the first thing that I noticed is that the pan doesn't fill with water when cooking. The government allowing broth and those diapers under the meat is like allowing the butcher to legally put his thumb on the scales.

Pumice said...

A lot of wisdom here.

On ignorance, I was trying to make a connection in class between a past even and modern experience and I asked my classes if they know who Saddam Husein was. Out of 190 kids I got three sets of bright eyes and 187 blank stares.

They probably think that Angus means golden arches.

Grace and peace.

Bob Mc said...

When I moved here, 38 years ago, it was a common sight in the summer to see high school kids out in the fields picking up bales of hay and putting them in the barn for 15 cents a bale. Brown as Indians and muscled up. All done with tractors and machinery today. Years ago a farmer friend bought a "hay squeeze" that attached to a tractor and picked up 8 bales of hay at a time. Half jokingly, I asked him if he realized how many kids he put out of work by buying that thing. He replied that was the reason he bought it. He said you can't get a kid to drive an air conditioned tractor these days.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'm glad I don't have to buy it, Cm.

I couldn't agree more, SF. I'm sure some government officials have some extra money in their pockets over that.

I'm sorry to say that I'm not surprised, Pumice.

It's a sad state of affairs, Bob.