Which side of the fence are you on?

Note: This post has the potential for being controversial. I know that going in, but I want to put an idea on the table.

Many people eschew eating meat because they do not want to participate in the killing of animals for food. I respect that and am not writing this to try to change anybody’s position on that. What I am going to attempt to do, though, is help people who do eat meat to make much kinder choices through simple math.

I call it the Happy Cow Days Equation. It also works for chickens or pigs or etc.

Let The Happy Cow Days Begin

When a calf is born into a situation that is healthy, life supporting and socially satisfying for cows I believe that calf’s Happy Cow Days begin with #1. If this calf is lucky enough to be born into a pasture raised, grass-fed situation these happy days march onward. If this calf is kept away from overcrowding, excessive vaccinations and antibiotics, and other medicines thought to be needed when cows are overcrowded and eating unhealthy fodder, then the calf’s Happy Cow Days (HCD) continue on.

The same is true for chickens, pigs and other animals being tended for meat.

Cows bred for beef usually are slaughtered at two years. Their equation looks like this:

  • 1 cow x 365 days x 2 = 730 Happy Cow Days – 730HCD
  • A herd of of 100 = 7,300 Happy Cow Days – 7,300HCD


The Last Moments

Compassionate ranchers also know how to transfer their herd to the abattoir with minimal stress. People like Temple Grandin have made careful studies in how slaughterhouses are laid out to minimize the stress for the animals coming through them. There are ways to build the pathways and manage the sounds so that a cow has been killed before she finds a need to panic. This is a the reality of these situations. My point in describing it is to demonstrate that there are methods to doing this that minimize stress and fear. Professionals can end a cow’s (pig’s, chicken’s, etc) life with zero horror. The videos you’ve seen of hack jobs? Those are not the people I’m talking about. I’m talking only about compassionate professionals.

Let’s not count the last day of a beef cow’s life as happy, even though up until the last few seconds it really hasn’t been bad. This leaves our equation in this shape:

  • 1 cow x 365 days x 2 – 1 = 729 Happy Cow Days – 729HCD

Vegetarians Create Zero Happy Cow Days

Vegetarians decision to not eat beef creates a neutral market for ranchers to breed cows to produce beef. A neutral market means no cows need to be born as they will not be sold. Ranchers can not breed cows just for the fun of it because they cannot afford to keep them as pets. They breed them to sell as meat. Profitably.

Vegetarians create an equation like this:

  • 0 cows x 0 days = 0 Happy Cow Days

The hallmark of the vegetarian’s choice is that while they don’t contribute anything to create Happy Cow Days they also do not contribute to Negative Happy Cow Days like the people who support unkind ranching practices do. Mind you, I understand there are people who can afford to keep some cows as pets, they of course DO contribute to Happy Cow Days. (By the way, standard dairy cows in the states do not have it a whole lot better and many of them get processed as meat when they can’t produce as much milk as they age, and other sad realities.)

Negative Happy Cow Days

Or Awful Cow Days. People who go for cheap meat that has been unkindly produced contribute to a system in which not only are no Happy Cow Days produced, but under these circumstances (overcrowding, over medicating, feeding awful, but fattening, fodder) Awful Cow Days are created. An equation like this might look like:

  • 1 cow x 365 x 2 = Negative 730 Happy Cow Days.
Sturdy stance

Sturdy stance

This equation is true for factory farmed anything. So here’s some hard truth for all you bacon lovers. Unless it’s been humanely raised and processed, your happy addiction is creating millions of awful pig days. I’m going to say, not just awful pig days but horror filled pig days. Same too with factory farmed chickens. Here’s a rule of thumb for you to approach your meat eating: If it’s too cheap it’s from an animal who experienced sadness and even horror.

From Meagan Burns' sketch book

From Meagan Burns’ sketch book

If you believe in energy transference, is a substance rooted in sadness and horror something you want to ingest? Even if you don’t cotton to that, is meat laced with antibiotics from an animal subjected to eating unnatural food something you think will contribute to your own health? Feedlot cows eat corn they can’t digest and feed that includes the waste from processed chickens (!) as well as cocktails of medicines designed to keep population-wide illness wipe out the already stressed herds. They call this ‘finishing’ a cow. All the corn adds income generating fat (cows are sold by the pound). The antibiotics allow for overcrowding under stressful, unhealthy situations. The improperly digested fodder and stressful living conditions create meat that reflects these truths.

Support Happy Cow Days

If you’re an animal lover, you may want to adopt the Happy Cow Days equation in your food choices. Stick with Happy Cow Days meats, or Happy Pig Days bacon, or Happy Chicken Days drummies.

My friend here in San Miguel, Meagan Burns, ( has a ranch upon which happy cows live and grow. Her ranch, Rancho Santo Niño raises a breed of cows from France called Limousine cows who are kept in a big family group and processed in small numbers. I have met these cows and can attest to their happy lives. Friends, I have also eaten some of the beef from this herd. It is wonderful. It’s not cheap, nor would I want it to be. The cheap comes from the cow’s suffering.

Only a happy bull would allow such shenanigns

Meagan with the herd patriarch

Meagan says this about it: “I believe our culture asks quite a bit of cows these days — we stretch them to the limit and alter their natural diets, which is why I believe in treating them with regard and respect. The better life is for the cow, the better they can provide for the community. Industrial agriculture has obliterated this concept; I am grateful to know there is a movement to change this, but there is much work to do.”

Meagan’s butcher who himself is becoming aware of the dangers inherent in cheap meat says he can tell a very distinct difference between Meagan’s truly grass-fed cows and the rest he processes.He sees a difference. He smells a difference. Meagan’s cows are healthy on the outside and healthy on the inside. Not so the other cows who haven’t been as humanely raised. The ones who may have been ‘finished’ on a regime of fat creating health depleting end of days fodder.

Do people cheat? Yes. Is some grass-fed, expensive beef maybe not really? Of course. Not everyone is honest, right? But most people are. Go to your farmer’s markets and meet your meat producers. Talk with them and support them. The compassionate ones will come to your attention. They’ll appreciate your patronage and more cows and other animals will experience Happy Days because of it.


A post about Meagan’s passion on Modern Farmer:

Ranch Santo Niño on Facebook:

Read how people are striving to make things better for animals headed to slaughter in this link on the World Animal Protection site.