Factory Farming

Beef Cattle on a Factory Farm

Cattle Raised for Beef Production


Many beef cattle are born and live on the range, foraging and fending for themselves for months or even years. They are not adequately protected against inclement weather, and they may die of dehydration or freeze to death. Injured, ill, or otherwise ailing animals often do not receive necessary veterinary attention. 

Ranchers still identify cattle the same way they have since pioneer days, with hot iron brands.  This practice is extremely traumatic and painful, and the animals bellow loudly through the process.  Beef cattle are also subjected to 'waddling,' another type of identification marking. This painful procedure entails cutting chunks out of the hide that hangs under the animals' necks.  Waddling marks are supposed to be large enough so that ranchers can identify their cattle from a distance.

Accustomed to roaming unimpeded and unconstrained, range cattle are frightened and confused when humans come to round them up. Terrified animals are often injured, some so severely that they become "downed" (unable to walk or even stand).  These downed animals commonly suffer for days without receiving food, water or veterinary care, and many die of neglect.  Other downed animals are dragged and/or pushed with tractors on their way to their next horrifying adventure.

At the stockyard or auction

Here, cattle are further frightened and confused as they are goaded through a series of walkways and holding pens, to be shown to and sold to the highest bidder.  From the auction, older cattle may be taken directly to slaughter, or they may be taken to a feedlot. Younger animals and breeding-age cows may go back to the range.

At the feedlot

Young cattle are commonly taken to areas with cheap grazing land, to take advantage of this inexpensive feed source.  Upon reaching maturity, they are trucked to a feedlot to be fattened and readied for slaughter.  At feedlots, cattle are crowded by the thousands into dusty, manure-laden holding pens. The air is thick with harmful bacteria subjecting the cattle to a constant risk of respiratory infection. 

Feedlot cattle are routinely implanted with growth-promoting hormones, and they are fed unnaturally rich diets designed to fatten them quickly and profitably. Since cattle are biologically suited to eat a grass-based, high fiber diet, their concentrated feedlot rations contribute to metabolic disorders.


cattle transport
As discussed above, cattle may be transported several times during their lifetimes, and they may travel hundreds or even thousands of miles during a single trip.  Long journeys are very stressful on cattle and as such, contribute to the rampant spread of disease and sometimes even death.  Eventually, all cattle will end up at the slaughterhouse.


A standard beef slaughterhouse kills 250 cattle every hour. The high speed of the assembly line and the number of cattle killed each hour make it increasingly difficult to treat animals with any semblance of humaneness.

Prior to being hung up by their back legs and bled to death, cattle are supposed to be rendered unconscious, as stipulated by the federal Humane Slaughter Act. This 'stunning' is usually done by a mechanical blow to the head. However, the procedure is terribly imprecise, and inadequate stunning is inevitable. As a result, conscious animals are often hung upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker makes another attempt to render them unconscious. Eventually, the animals' throats will be sliced, whether or not they are unconscious.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the treatment of animals in meat plants, but enforcement of the law varies dramatically. Recent investigations into the treatment of animals at slaughterhouses led to the issuance of a Congressional resolution. While a few plants have been forced to halt production for a few hours because of alleged animal cruelty, such sanctions are rare.

What can you do?

Free range and/or grass fed cattle are great examples of refinement. Refining your diet by choosing free range cattle and/or grass fed cattle products helps ensure beef cattle live a better life. Click here for more information on where to find beef products from farms that have higher standards of care for animals.

Grocery stores now have a large assortment of delicious beef products to replace those traditionally obtained from animals who are intensively confined.  These vegetarian alternatives include fake meatballs and fake burgers! You can find many of these alternatives in your local grocery store. There are also many wonderful and creative animal-free recipes available on the internet.  

If we reduce the consumption of beef by just one meal a week, approximately one billion cattle would be spared the suffering that occurs with intensive confinement operations. Check out creative animal-free recipes available on the internet and try starting a no meat Monday policy in your household today!