I don't know why, but recently I've started wondering. Most of my knowledge of the life cycle of beef cattle comes from Hank the Cowdog, which might make some of you laugh but he actually does explain things clearly sometimes.
So, here is what I think I know.
- Someone has a herd of cows and a bull. The bull impregnates the cows.
- Calves are born. When they are ready, the male cattle are castrated and are now steers.
- The steers (and maybe some of the cows?) are raised on pasture.
- At a certain point (a year? Nine months?) these cattle are taken to an auction.
- The person who buys them at the auction is the owner of a feedlot (???). He takes the cattle to the feedlot and feeds them until they make weight.
- Then he takes them to another auction? Or somehow sells them to the actual processor? Maybe the processor just has a contract with the feed lot guy to provide X many head every so often, and the processor just picks them straight up from the feed lot?
- Is the processor the same as the company that sells the meat? Like, I don't even know who sells beef products, but let's say it was Jim Bob's beef sausage company. Is Jim Bob the one who slaughters the cattle? Or is the processor yet another separate link, and the processor sells the beef parts to Jim Bob once he's slaughtered them, and then Jim Bob takes them to his factory and makes the sausage?
How far off am I? Are there really this many different people and steps involved? Logically, given the way our food system works, I can believe it, but on the other hand it seems kind of silly to have one animal go through this many owners.