The beef farmer’s kid

This is another great post by Christine.


“The cow in the meadow goes ‘Moo’!  The cow in the meadow goes ‘Moo!’  The farmer hits him on the head and grinds him up. That’s how we get hamburger. Nooooow, chickens!”  Do you remember that episode of ‘Friends’ where Phoebe sings honest songs to the kids at the library?  I remember that episode so vividly and thought, “Wow. That’s enough to deter kids from ever eating meat!”  I love ‘Friends’ and I actually thought that episode was funny. Phoebe is hilarious.

At the same time, I remember when I was a teenager and stopped eating meat or any animal product. I turned vegetarian because the thought of eating animals was something I could not bare.  I remained vegetarian for most of my adult life (until health reasons made me start eating meat again).  Ironic how I married a beef farmer.

Now that we have a daughter, she’s at the age where she asks a lot of questions.  She knows what chickens, pigs, fish, and cows are.  She knows what chicken meat, pork, fish, and beef are. She eats all of those.  She just hasn’t asked any questions about that yet.  She hasn’t said, “Wahhhh! I don’t want to eat cows! Cows are my friends!” (knock on wood).

I was thinking of how best to talk to Little One about this whole situation.  Our animals are part of our every day life. Little One SEES the calves every day. She says, “Awww! They’re so cute!” and then she chows down her steak or burger. You can totally tell she’s a beef farmer’s kid. When asked what her favourite food is, she doesn’t say ice cream or cookies. She says “BEEF”!

When I first became part of a farming family over six years ago, I had a difficult time dealing with having to ship our animals off to be sold and butchered. I didn’t deal well at all. Hubby kept explaining to me about the cycle of life and death. It is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to, but it’s a huge reality in our lives. Selling our cattle is our livelihood. I guess when the time comes to explain to Little One, Hubby and I will have to talk to her about the cycle of life and death and we need to respond with simple yet truthful answers.

I often think about the day Little One brings up the topic of eating ‘her friends’ and not wanting to do so anymore. I’m actually not so worried. Little One goes fishing with Grampy and last December (at just over 3 years of age!), she reeled in her first fish!  It was a 6 lb fish and she was so delighted. I was really worried at what her reaction would be like. She saw this fish ALIVE and then saw it flailing on the ground. Then she saw it DIE, and then she saw Grampy clean it, fillet it, and cook it! Oh, and she ate it! I was so worried she would not want to eat it after witnessing all of that, but she devoured it and she still really loves fish!

I guess one of the benefits of growing up on the farm is that you realize the connection between yourself and your food. There’s a certain level of respect when you know where you food comes from. You know it’s part of your daily life. Being tied to the land and to the animals, you are aware of the life cycle.  Our 3 year old knows that we raise our cattle, take care of them, feed them, and love them. She knows that every year we have to send some away. She also knows that some of them eventually lose their lives and become meat. I’m not sure of that makes it easier or not, but it certainly makes kids aware that everything on this Earth has purposes for existing. This is just one of the realities we have to deal with on the farm.


Christine McNaughton is a city girl gone country (or at least trying to!). Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Christine received a B.A. in Honours English from York University (English Literature), and is also certified in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). She teaches English, and works as a freelance writer, blogger, product reviewer, and brand promoter.

Christine lives on a working beef farm with her husband and preemie daughter on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

PS  from Heather: We are SOOOOO excited!! Christine is also a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador! Woohooo!

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10 thoughts on “The beef farmer’s kid

  1. Having grown up on a beef farm I can say, at least for me, that you grow up with a different perspective with the whole circle of life thing. I was in 4-H and spent countless hours with my calves, feeding them, grooming them, training them to walk a ring. Then I would proudly show them, usually winning a trophy or two. I knew at the end of this process my calf would be sold and from a very early age I knew that he wasn’t been sold to another kid to go live on a new farm. Yes, I was sad when it was time to say goodbye but it wasn’t traumatizing. We raise the animals, take care of them, even get attached to some of them. We treat them well when we have them and that was the important thing to me as a child – that we gave our cattle a “good home” while they were with us.

    I think you also gain a completely different level of respect for animals growing up that way. I’m not saying it’s more respect, just different.

  2. I am a born and raised farm girl. I learned about the “cycle of life” long before Lion King came out and I learned about “where babies come from” long before the classes at school. I went to school with 29 other kids not all of whom were farm kids, but if they weren’t they knew how it worked. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I realized that some people had no clue where their food came from. I still feel sympathy for those people. Thank you for your article – I wish more “city people” had the chance to learn and understand the way you do. One tactic that I’ve found useful is the native idea of thanking the animal for its life… although I’m a Christian, I like the idea of expressing gratitude for the animal that gave it’s life so we could have food and the byproducts… and although I’m not praying to the spirit of the animal, I am aware of the connections we all share.

  3. I’ve been answering tough questions from my oldest on what exactly it is we’re eating for about 2 years now. I was a little anxious when we first made the connection between the cow goes Moo, and the beef you’re eating IS cow. However, my daughter has ZERO problem with it. In fact I’m more embarrassed by her randomly blurting out things like, “This chicken used to alive and now it’s DEAD and we’re eating it!” The relish with which she says DEAD is a little disturbing.

    On the other hand one day she got worked up about wondering what would happen to her “meat and bones body” once she was dead, and it turned out her biggest concern was who was going to eat her because she didn’t want to go to waste.

    I think kids get the whole cycle of life thing, sometimes better then we give them credit for. I think your Little One has an advantage, living on the farm and seeing how the animals are raised. It’ll be interesting to see what her reaction is once she puts it all together, but I’m guessing she’ll be just fine.

  4. WOW Christine, great post! I too tried the meatless route once as a teenager. I still remember the taste of my first piece of beef that ended it all. LOL In Saying that I am a visual person and although I live in the country I cannot see Cows from my front window, which makes it easier for me to enjoy. My DD6 is starting to turn meat down at certain times, I think it’s something we all have to explore! You are the perfect Beef ambassador! Great post as always!!

  5. I also stopped eating meat when I was young….we were having steak, and I started to cry. My mom asked me what was wrong and I told her I could picture the cow “mooing”…I didn’t eat meat for many years after that

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