Cattle grazing on public land in South Dakota. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Where’s the beef?

Native Sun News Today Columnist

I hate to sound like a Vegetarian (gasp), because I am not one. But, I am sounding more like one every day.

After attending the Native Foods Festival and having looked at the grocery shelves during this pandemic (and the prices!), I have become even more anxious. Not wanting to start a riot in this state of South Dakota, I hate to even mention that BEEF and meat in general may be on the docket for some extensive analysis.

Did you know that the Industrial beef market is the most polluting and the most carbon-emitting and the most resource intensive form of protein in the business?

Sorry, Mr. Favor and Rowdy, your cattle drives up the Pecos and Missouri River Valleys don’t seem to curry the enthusiastic support for good social policy that they once did.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

The Grand Island, Nebraska, processing plant moves nearly a billion pounds of beef through the meat packing plants every year even while some are dropping dead from unknown illnesses, the immigrant workers in those plants are blamed for spreading the toxic virus, and Dr. James Salisbury (who invented the namesake steak) said some time ago that the way we eat and what we eat (mostly meat) may be harmful to our health.

Some of us would like to think it is sufficient to get our protein by drinking a cup of Ensure every day (we do need protein) but that hardly takes the place of working toward finding answers to what might be the looming global crises that are basically ecological rather than food forecasts. Scary?

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has been lobbying for meatpacking plants to remain open during the current shut down, so they are no help in understanding our dilemma.

It all started, some say, with the near extinction of the Bison and the genocidal “removal” of Indian Tribes to Reservations in the West because cattle ranching became central to that dispossession, and that meant taking the land. Beef cattle are NOT indigenous to America, we don’t need to be reminded; but, then, neither are Starlings nor is Christianity. Why blame beef?

One reason is that it was imperative for European developers like the English, Scots and Swedes and others to move millions of cattle into places like Cheyenne River and Standing Rock lands during the Teddy Roosevelt Era. Stealing land was often made legal with a mere presidential signature.

There were, of course, scary moments for the cattle investors like a terrible blizzard in the early 1900’s which drove millions of these cattle into the draws and rivers where they froze to death. (They were not like the buffalo who knew enough to face INTO the storm and eventually out of it on the other side, rather than be driven WITH the storm to be trapped by it.) There is something to be said for Indigenous Knowledge possessed by those given legacy to a specific geography.


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