Are Cowboys Kinder?

Article image

Cattle raised for beef are the only farmed animals in America that typically spend a significant portion of their lives outdoors and free of intensive confinement. Although factory farming has devastated traditional cattle husbandry, the beef industry has resisted the factory farm model more than any other form of animal agriculture (including dairy production). Whereas pigs and poultry spend their entire lives in confinement, cattle raised for beef typically spend only half their lives in a factory farm setting—the feedlots that fatten them before slaughter. For the first half of their lives, cattle raised for beef are left relatively free to roam in pastures.

Small segments of the beef industry have even become national leaders in creating more sustainable and humane animal agriculture. The small but growing market for pastured beef does away with the feedlot and allows cattle to live in a healthy environment and engage in many of their species-specific behaviors—a foundation of good welfare. Other progressive operations have reduced the amount of time animals spend in the feedlot and taken steps to mitigate the detrimental effects it can have on animal welfare and the environment.

One such operation—Niman Ranch—has gone so far as to require all of the 300 ranchers participating in its cooperative to follow basic welfare practices that are recognized by leading animal protection groups. Although these practices are insufficient by Farm Forward’s standards (dehorning is prohibited, for example, but branding is still allowed), they represent an important step forward.

Despite such positive examples, the beef industry as a whole has been heading in the wrong direction. Today, it has become an international force promoting animal suffering, dependence on fossil fuels, pollution, and deforestation.

Please join the Farm Forward mailing list to receive updates about our work and important information about how you can get involved.

Email or share this feature

Cows and Calves

Cattle are the only farmed animals that typically spend part of their lives unconfined and outdoors. Does that mean cattle raised for beef have the best lives of any farmed animal?

Join our mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter that will keep you involved with our nation’s most exciting and promising efforts to transform the way we eat.

Pigs

More than 97 percent of America’s hog farmers have been driven out of business, but we’re producing more pork than ever. Genetically engineered pigs raised in intensive confinement have become the industry standard. How did it happen?

Join our mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter that will keep you involved with our nation’s most exciting and promising efforts to transform the way we eat.

Poultry

Americans eat more than 100 times as much chicken meat as we did a century ago. But the whopping 9 billion chickens we eat each year are genetically engineered, drugged, and sick. What happened?

  • Anything Goes - Chickens are the most abused of all farmed animals, and yet they are completely unprotected under US federal law.
  • Chicken vs. Chimp - New studies suggest chickens have some intellectual abilities that surpass primates. Is it true?
  • Chickens and Turkeys Raised Right - Meet America’s last poultry farmer.

Join our mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter that will keep you involved with our nation’s most exciting and promising efforts to transform the way we eat.

Sea Animals

Fish factory farms and industrial fishing are emptying our oceans. In some industries, up to 98 percent of the sea animals caught are thrown back, dead, as "bycatch." Can we fish better?

Join our mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter that will keep you involved with our nation’s most exciting and promising efforts to transform the way we eat.

Join our mailing list...

Privacy Policy
  • Twitter
    popup tail
  • Facebook
    popup tail
  • Facebook
    popup tail
Donate to Farm Forward