Your point is well-taken and it got me thinking (again) about two words that have pretty much fallen out of use in our Modern Scientific Age. The words are “husbandry” and “herdsmen”. When the first land grant colleges were founded about 100 years ago, their agricultural courses actually were focused on husbandry. “Animal Science” didn’t replace husbandry until the 1970s.

Husbandry is a way of life and a process as much as a system. In fact, you might say you never graduate from “husbandry school”. You’re always a student. Smarter as time goes by, we hope, but still learning.

Husbandry observes the subject animal, searching for clues to its proper care and growth. Husbandry requires patience, observation, and a state of mind in tune with the animal and its environment. We often use the word “stewardship” in connection with the care of the land, but it can just as well be used to describe our relationship with our animals.

Many of us now understand that you cannot care for the animal without caring for the land. We have come to realize that you cannot really separate land from cow without doing serious harm to the animal (and to ourselves). Of course, we’ve tried. The word we have for that is “feedlot”.

Science gave us the feedlot. Science gave us the mix of supplements to fatten the animals in their pens. Science gave us the chemicals to keep those imprisoned animals from dying before their time. It was science that gave us a meat supply that is no longer safe to eat. And science is providing the drugs for our damaged bodies.

Do we really need to ask this same Science to tell us whether grass fed beef is better for us than the answer they’ve come up with? I don’t need a research study to tell me that raising my cattle naturally works. My eye answers that question for me.

I don’t need a research project to confirm my experience. I can look at a cow and tell if she will do well on grass, will be fertile, is missing some mineral in her diet, will produce excellent meat and milk. There was a time when most farmers could do that, and it wasn’t that long ago!

And if I were you I wouldn’t wait around for scholarly papers singing the praises of grass fed beef. Ag professors, like chemistry professors and the others on campus, need their research funded, too. They like to receive honorariums, attend conferences with all expenses paid. Beyond that, where is the prestige in teaching a graduate seminar to a bunch of herdsmen? Far better to cater to the “bigger is better” frenzy created and subsidized by the commercial interests and their friends in government. After all, what drug company is going to fund research on producing an animal naturally?

The market may be calling for natural food; our instincts may be telling us it is the healthy answer for consumers, our cows, our land, and our families. But we are afraid. We need some proof, we say. Give us some scientific studies, we say. We are a land of educated but uninformed farmers. We do not trust what we can see and experience. We are no longer husbandmen; no longer truly stewards.

Only recently, and only under pressure, are colleges finally becoming interested in grass-based food production. I’m not aware of any offering a degree in the subject yet; but at least it is now being mentioned in polite academic circles.

It is not the experts who first pointed us in this new direction. It is not the Ag professors and extension agents, not even farmers, but the people we serve who have turned this around. It is the mother worried about her family’s diet that is insisting on a pure and safe food supply. Certainly politicians, environmental lobbyists and the media who have begrudgingly boarded the bandwagon but, at heart, this is a true “peoples’ movement” we are witnessing.

It is not an exaggeration to say that those of us in the grass fed industry are finally learning how to be herdsmen all over again; and it is our customers who are insisting on it. They may not know the word but they are demanding we re-discover the lost skill of Husbandry.