I don’t know whether the entire country has become agriculturally illiterate or just the people in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue, but I’ve about had enough.
I began to suspect we were entering into this abyss nine years ago when a Hollywood production company was filming here and an assistant called to see if my son had a steer that was gentle enough to use in the movie. Zach turned the phone over to me and I told him that we did not have a steer, but we did have a couple of show heifers that were halter broke and used to a crowd. There was a long pause before he asked, “What’s a heifer?”
Trying my best not to laugh, I replied that it was a female that had not had a calf yet. “Will she be used as beef?” he asked.
“Hopefully not for about 15 years,” I answered, “but, yes, eventually she will be harvested (I’ve been told these Hollywood types don’t like the term ‘slaughtered’) when her productive life has concluded.”
“Well, since I didn’t know the difference between a heifer and a steer, I’ll bet most others won’t either, right?”
I sighed and answered, “Probably not.”  
“Perfect,” he screamed into the phone, “Can you be on location by sunrise tomorrow morning?”
We spent the day there and made it into two scenes in the final version of the movie. Zach made a hundred dollars and I learned a lot more than I ever wanted to about movie making. I would compare it to watching sausage being made or congress in session, but it was at that point that I knew we had a societal problem that was only going to get worse.
I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the commercial where Holstein cows parachute into a crowd trying to get the public to eat more chicken instead of beef. I’m pretty sure the advertising people who came up with this clip equate any cow with beef and I’m just as certain that a good portion of beef does, indeed, come from Holstein cows that have reached the end of their “milking” careers, but the vast majority of the beef we eat comes from BEEF cattle, not dairy cows.
I was almost ready to resign myself to the fact that these highly paid advertising firms simply think of a cow as a cow and really don’t know any better, until last week when I saw another commercial that showed the old, overalls wearing, hayseed farmer, putting a milking machine on a HEREFORD cow! That was the straw that broke my camel’s back. If the general public thinks a black and white Holstein is the generic version of a cow, then fine – but why further confuse an already uninformed population by milking a beef cow?
Is it not bad enough that every depiction of a crop farmer shows some old man in a straw hat driving a 1940’s, tricycle front-end, Farmall tractor? I love old Farmalls and John Deeres, but the only time I see these tractors still in use is at the parade at the Old Settler’s picnic. Why not realistically show a farmer stepping out of the air-conditioned cab of a $250,000, GPS navigated, electronically monitored, state-of-the-art tractor? Oh yeah, that probably wouldn’t sell whatever it is they’re trying to sell as seductively.
As if everything up to now hasn’t ruffled my feathers enough, a neighbor girl brought over her fiancé to meet us a couple weeks ago and he started talking about how he had just bought 30 acres and he had decided that he was going to start raising organic beef on his farm. He wondered how many cows he might be able to run on his ranch. I asked him if it was all in pasture, and he replied that only about five to ten acres “didn’t have trees on it.”
I told him that he better just start with two or three cows unless he was going to purchase and feed a lot of grain. “Oh no,” he cut in, “I can’t feed any grain because cattle can’t digest grain unless you give them a shot to enable them to do so, and I’m going to be all natural and organic.” I was speechless.
Oh well. I guess I’d better shoo the chickens out of the yard, slop the hogs, milk my Hereford cow, and butcher my Holstein, before I get on my 8N Ford and plow in a couple more rows of cotton. Now, where’d I lay my straw hat? Oh yeah, it’s hangin’ on the ringer washer on the front porch.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry about his books, or to arrange speaking engagements, you may contact him by calling 1-866-532-1960 or visiting www.ozarksfn.com and clicking on 'Contact Us.'


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