It’s not the strongest of the species that survives.
It’s not the most intelligent. It’s the one most responsive to change.
— Charles Darwin

There is an old saying that “the only constant is change”. Nowhere is that more true than in business.

Successful business managements are those which can recognize change and adapt. That’s as true in the food business as in anything else. The food we consume, how it is packaged, the way it is advertised, where we buy it, are here for an instant and then replaced. When I was a boy (yes, even way back then) there were a number of large meat conglomerates: Hormel, Armor, Swift, to name just the most important.

Those companies and most of the others are gone. Some of the names remain. But that is all. Successors bought the names of those seemingly invulnerable companies which failed to manage change. It is no less hard for corporations than for the rest of us to say, in effect, that’s the way we’ve always done it. If it was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for me.

But when the customers speak, business had better listen. And customers today are demanding fresh, healthy, unadulterated food. But food processors, supported by the government, are determined not to change. Instead, they’re fighting back.

Recently, I heard that the industrial beef people are hot on the trail of an artificial Omega- 3 to answer the challenge of their grass fed beef competitors. You don’t have to have a crystal ball to know how this will turn out. They will succeed in developing an artificial product, of course, and just as inevitably the government will assure us it is safe and no different than natural Omega-3. And so the epidemic of cancer and heart disease and diabetes and children with Attention Deficit Disorder will still be with us.

And it’s not just beef. The refusal to change, to listen to their customers, is just as prevalent in the dairy business. Consider the case of butterfat.

Butterfat is the heart of milk and that makes it the heart of both the dairy cow and the beef cow. It is in butterfat that we find the nutrients, the essentials such as Conjugated Linoleic Acid, and Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids. All the British breeds of cattle, both beef and dairy, produce particularly high concentrations of butterfat. It is the milk and butter from those cows that has been the stabilizing food for mankind.

A cow that does not have the genetic makeup to produce milk rich in butter fat does not produce the best calf and her milk is no more suited for our children. The cow’s glandular development depends on goodly amounts of butterfat. A calf that fails to receive sufficient butterfat can never develop properly. The same is just as true for our children.

Ron Schmid, in his book “The Untold Story of Milk”, relates many cases in which doctors put their patients on diets of just milk (whole, unpasturized milk) and in each case the patient was healed. If the butterfat had been removed, the treatment would not have been as successful. Milk without butterfat or with reduced amounts of butterfat is not a complete food for our calves. It is not a complete food for us either!

We beef producers tend to think that butterfat is a product only the dairyman needs to be concerned about. But take a look at your calf crop. Your fattest and slickest calves are from mothers with the same kind of hide.

Spade-like pattern of cow’s escutcheon. Note wide handle leading down to blade.

Spade-like pattern of cow’s escutcheon.
Note wide handle leading down to blade.

Look more closely and you’ll note that those same mothers have the largest escutcheons. The escutcheon is the best marker I know to demonstrate the butterfat capability of a mama cow. And the same trait is noticeable in the best bulls, too. There are other important surface indications you can look for as well. I’ll have a lot more to say on all this my next columns.

But for now let me conclude by saying the milk processors certainly understand the value of butterfat. That’s why they remove every drop of it from the raw milk and then regulate much smaller amounts back into the milk you buy at the supermarket. The rest goes into all the other dairy products you find on the grocery shelves. Without exploiting that butterfat, dairies would have to shut down.

Why do you think the processors have developed 2% or 1% or “low fat” milk? It is not, as they claim, because it is better for you. It is better for them. That butterfat they’ve removed is their profit margin.

So with everyone else trying to take the butterfat out, how do we cattlemen insure that we’re keeping it where it belongs? I’ll save that for next time.