Over 30 million cattle are raised for meat in the U.S. each year.
Cattle raised for meat often graze on range for their first seven months of life. This initial ability to walk around, socialize, and eat the food most readily digestible for cows means that these animals start off with better lives than many other farm animals, such as pigs, chickens, and dairy cows.
However, conventional beef cattle systems also incorporate painful mutilations like castration, dehorning and disbudding, and branding, all without any medical relief for the pain. Even tail docking, typically associated primarily with dairy farms, may be performed when cattle raised for meat spend their early months not on the range but in cramped indoor barns.
Whether cattle raised for meat start their lives on the range or inside a barn, however, they end up on a feedlot for their last six months before being sent to slaughter. At the feedlot, cattle are confined together in dirty conditions, standing on unnatural slatted concrete floors or in muddy “dry lots” free of vegetation. They are fattened on grain, which causes internal stress and disease because cattlestomachs have evolved to digest forage (i.e., grasses), but are poorly adapted to digest the grains and concentrates (e.g., corn) that producers use to fatten them more quickly.
High-welfare, pasture-based farms allow cattle raised for meat to graze and stay in their bonded groups throughout their lives. They spend most of their time outdoors and are allowed to express natural behaviors and eat the food they prefer the way they adapted to eating it, by grazing.