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7 April 2013 - Seeing is Believing

I spent a fascinating day a week ago in the Southwest desert, in a community about 50 miles southwest of the city of Phoenix, AZ. That is where I found one of the largest cattle feeding operations in the country, the Pinal Feeding Company, three separate feed lots in very close proximity with 45,000 cattle in each feed lot. Pinal Feeding Company started as a family business in 1948 and still is a family business, incorporated for tax purposes.

While the size of the feedlot operation is mind-boggling, (one feed alley was one mile long) I want to share with you what I observed in the care given to the animals. First of all, let’s establish the fact that the ultimate destination is the processing center, the meat counter and our dinner plates. But before that the cattle receive great care administered in a humane way.

Every day, truckloads of cattle move in and out of the feedlot. Incoming cattle come into the yards from California, Arizona, Idaho, Texas and New Mexico at a weight of 300 lbs. The outgoing cattle leave for the JBS Processing Center West of Phoenix at a weight of 1275 lbs. after being on feed for a year.

Every animal is vaccinated upon arrival, just like we vaccinate our children, to prevent illness and disease. Any other medication is given to the animals, when needed, simply to fight any kind of an illness that might attack them. No growth hormones are administered.

My question, with 45,000 cattle in a yard, how do you check them to spot signs of sickness or “off-feed”? The answer, cowboys ride the corrals throughout the day, observing the cattle, and if they find any that are not doing well, they are separated into ‘treating pens’ where proper medication is administered to cure the illness. They are not returned to the regular corrals until the medication has left their system. It really is no different than the prescribed medicines we, as human beings, receive to treat our illness.

It takes a lot of employees to cover the many different tasks in a feed yard this size and General Manager Norm Hinz told me the No. 1 priority in this operation is to assure that employees always use humane treatment when handling the animals. Every new employee goes through an intense training session on the humane handling of the cattle as outlined in the Beef Quality Assurance Program of the National Cattlemen‘s Beef Association. Norm also told me they have had noted livestock care specialist Dr. Temple Grandin on the premises several times to advise them on humane practices and have followed her suggestions.

So, to those people who are constantly writing to tell me how terribly animals are treated by farmers and ranchers, I have a suggestion. Instead of basing your thinking on a news release from PETA or HSUS or a random video they purport to represent what happens throughout the industry, you need to go out and see for yourself. That is what I did at the Pinal Feeding Company, and they and other livestock producers across the country conduct many educational tours each year to give consumers a first-hand look at what they do and how they treat animals. Before you condemn livestock producers, go see for yourself!

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