"Mom, I think I'm going to be a vegetarian," I exclaimed one summer day as we were standing in our kitchen in Yankton, S.D.
"And why's that, babe?" My mom replied as she was fixing lunch for my sisters and I.
"Because, I love animals and I don't want to hurt them by eating them," I said eyeing the cheeseburger she had placed in front of me.
"If you're a vegetarian, you can't eat cheeseburgers, steak or chicken nuggets," my mom cautioned.
I pondered her remark for a moment.
"Never mind, I don't want to be a vegetarian!"
Oct. 1 marks the beginning of World Vegetarian Day and the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month. Activist groups request meat eaters abstain from eating meat for one day, or the entire month. Participants are encouraged to explain why they became a vegetarian to those that will listen.
As I think back to the conversation I had with my mom at 7 years old, I realize many people consider a meat-free lifestyle because they love animals. Farmers and producers love animals, too. They make a lifelong commitment to extensive hours, demanding labor and continuous uncertainty that encompasses their job description.
Misconceptions about the care and treatment of food animals glares curious Google-searchers in the face when they type 'vegetarian' into the search bar online. The most common misconception is that all food animals are mistreated. Staff Veterinarian for JBS Five-Rivers Nathan Meyer, Ph.D., spoke in a YouTube video produced by the company on Sept. 9.
"JBS Five-Rivers is at the forefront of animal welfare," Meyers said. "That means making sure that feed and water are fresh and abundant. Making sure that these animals are disease free, which is a big focus of mine." He also mentioned that the cattle entrusted in their care always have a comfortable environment to mature in.
I was selected for an internship opportunity with two feedlots on opposite ends of the production scale. My first internship took place with Seibert Feeding in Macksville, Kan. They manage about 6,000 head of cattle. My second internship was with JBS Fiver-Rivers, at XIT Feeders in Dalhart, Texas. At capacity, they care for 74,000 head of cattle. Regardless of the size of the operation, the mission was the same. Animal welfare is the top priority.
An industry that strives tirelessly to feed neighbors and the world, despite constant criticism, is one worth fighting for. My mom's words still ring in my ears today,
"If you're a vegetarian, you can't eat cheeseburgers, steak or chicken nuggets."
Well I definitely do not want to be a vegetarian.