Written by Amanda Radke, Amanda Radke Communications LLC & Radke Cattle Co.
I’m washing dishes at the kitchen sink in our old farmhouse, and my eyes wander out the window. The old barn stands tall and proud, and in the distance, I see cows scattered along the rolling pasture hills.
I’m a mom of three kids, and on our family’s ranch, we teach our kids the circle of life and where their food comes from. They know from a young age that the cattle we raise ultimately become the beef in our freezer.
They accept this reality because they are intimately part of the process from welcoming baby calves in the spring to feeding fat steers that go to market. For them, and for myself too, we know that it’s much more than beef.
When we respectfully utilize a cow from nose to tail, we not only get nutrient-dense beef (which provides 10 essential nutrients and 25 grams of protein in a single 3-oz. serving), but also more than 100 life-enriching by-products, too.
These by-products include leather for sporting goods, shoes, upholstery and furniture; toiletries such as makeup, deodorant, nail polish, lipstick and shaving cream; household items such as dish soap, candles, printer ink; medicinal items like bandages, ointments, surgical sutures; and even more food like chewing gum, marshmallows and dog biscuits. Actually the list is quite incredible!
More than beef and by-products, the beef cow herself is an incredible machine. She is an upcycler, which means she can graze on feedstuffs that are inedible for human consumption — grass, corn stalks, beet pulp, almond hulls, cotton seed hulls, potato skins, soybean stubble — and she can convert these items into nutritious beef.
Additionally, when a cow grazes, she aerates the soil with her hooves, encouraging new grass to grow. As she eats, she decreases the spread of wildfire because there is less brush for the flames to consume. She urinates and spreads her manure as she walks, which fertilizes the soil and promotes biodiversity of the organic matter.
And because the range is unsuitable for modernizing or farming, she is able to take land that is very steep, hilly, rocky or arid and add value to those acres instead of letting them sit barren. When cattle graze, they also ensure that the landscape stays intact, which in turn, provides habitat for wildlife.
As I dry the dishes and glance out at my cattle grazing one more time, I smile because I’m grateful for these beef animals and the power they have to improve the land and produce beef and by-products to enrich human lives.