Yes, Virginia, lamb chops also come from feed lots. Or should I say, they come through feed lots?
It’s true that many lamb chops start out on the hoof in bucolic pastures and forage on mountain ranges. It’s also true that some ranchers like the ones we met from Meeker sell lamb directly to local markets and stores, but there’s often another step to producing lamb chops.
Much of America’s lamb chops – while on the hoof – pass through feed lots. It’s an important step in the lamb “chop-making” process. Feed lots are where they are taken to put on weight before being slaughtered, or “processed for the plate,” if you prefer. Either way, it is what it is.
Lamb chops and other meats come from animals, not Styrofoam trays in a grocery store.
Just so you can see for yourself that yes, lots of lamb chops are made in feed lots too, below are two videos:
- Double J Farms and Feeding in Ault, CO, an all natural lamb feedlot with a capacity of 60,000 head; and
- Harper Livestock in Eaton, CO. Harper buys lamb from farmers and ranchers at about 110-120 pounds a piece and grows them out to 150 pounds over a 45- 50 day period. So while “lamb” may conjure up pictures of 5 pound, fluffy white Easter mascots, they are not.
Lamb chops are made in feed lots too, but never, never, never are they made in a grocery store.
You’ve met a few of the ranchers and farmers that “make” lamb chops now. So every time you see lamb in the store, think of them and so many others. Think about generations of families that right now are out in all kinds of weather working hard to feed (and clothe) you. Some folks will retort that they’re getting paid darn well to do it too, but that is often not the case.
Few farmers and ranchers get into or stay in agriculture for the money. Land ownership and operating expenses are very costly. Think feeding teenage boys is bad? Raise 4,000 head of sheep or 65,000, for that matter. That’s not all. One predator – a coyote, mountain lion, wolf, bear, or neighbor’s dog – can wipe out a profit margin pretty quickly. Complying with environmental regulations is expensive too. And although some markets (including lamb) are strong now, they’ve been marginal for years and will likely be so again.
On the whole, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers are struggling (more about that soon) to continue producing food and fiber in the face of rising costs and regulations. Every time the government enacts new laws and regulations, there are costs and impacts to them and thus, to the availability of things like lamb chops.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws and regulations, but it does mean that we should think carefully about potential impacts and what they might do to agricultural production.
Let’s think too about the prospect of not having a viable agriculture industry in the US. If we don’t grow our food, who will? And how will we know it’s safe to eat?
Please tell folks who may not understand where their food – like lamb chops – comes from. Help us get the word out. There are way more people that don’t have any idea than you might think.
Let’s make sure we protect our food supply – and those who produce it – even as we protect the environment. We can do both.