I spy … cows

9 11 2007

Google Earth is a fun little application. It’s also a great time-sucker especially now when there are user images attached with Panoramio. It’s possible to while away a whole morning virtually traveling the planet. The good news is that it’s less expensive and less carbon intensive than doing it in person. And it’s free.

So anyway, I spent some of my morning spying on cows. 🙂

Fresh Breeze Dairy, Whatcom

So there’s Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy up in Whatcom County. You can even see the cows in the pasture!

I’ve mentioned that I’ve stopped buying Aurora organic butter (although I’m still working through my stash in the freezer) until they shape up. What’s the problem? A class action suit and their general lack of adherence to organic standards. Unsure that this isn’t just an activist kerfuffle? Have a look for yourself!

Aurora Dairy, Dublin, TX

Because the dairy is so large, the satellite image is from a higher elevation, but you can see that the “pastures” that the cows have access to are small and consist of dirt (or more likely poo).

Now it might not be fair to compare a small 100 cow operation with a large 2,800 cow factory dairy, but since they’re both USDA-certified organic, one would assume they would look similar in concept if not in scale.

While I was at it, I flew over Greeley, Colorado where ConAgra’s and Monfort’s feedlots are located. This is not a dairy, this is where most cows end up to be fattened before being processed at the rate of several hundred per hour in a meat packing plant.

Greeley CAFO

This one is zoomed out even farther so I included a little bit of measurement. This is a CAFO and it is 1.75 miles across. That’s a lot of cows!

Greeley Feed Lot Detail

I zoomed in a little bit. The square is about 1.5 acres in size and I can’t count how many cows there are. It’s cozy to say the least.  Looks a bit like E. coli on a Petri dish, doesn’t it? Some time ago, I found a disturbing US government document online that described the allowable amounts of various types of garbage, chicken litter, blood, etc. that could be fed to feedlot cattle. Once I find it again, I will post a link, but meanwhile here’s a little blurb about some of the goings on and also from the UCS.

Hmm … I guess that wasn’t so much fun after all. Let’s be thankful that we have choices here in the Skagit Valley.

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3 responses

12 11 2007
Nate

Thanks for the eye-opening post.

26 06 2008
Corey Bronkhorst

How’s it going, I artificially inseminate cows for a living in Washington State, and I would like to remind you that these cattle are most likely healthier than most people are. Each one of those animals and given vaccines, get there blood tested, checked by vets numerous times, and worth a lot of money to whomever owns them. Those pens, in most cases, are kept cleaner then you would think they are too. Besides, E-coli, and other bacteria are on everything all the time… that’s why we COOK our food now days silly man!

27 06 2008
Saara

Thanks for your comment. You may have noticed that the CAFO was in Colorado, not Washington. Washington doesn’t have a beef CAFO problem, although the chicken end of things is another issue. http://www.factoryfarmmap.org/ is a nice tool to compare the states and find out where these methods are practiced.
Knowing where your meat was raised is a good way to ensure that your food is safe – cooked or uncooked.

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