A link was shared on our “Faces of Agriculture” Facebook wall from the Montana Beef Ambassadors asking for thoughts this on the fluffy cow craze. Is the new exposure good for the beef world - has it opened the doors to educate people? I had been mulling it over and decided I would put in my two cents worth and write this short post.
The first thing I want to stress is that I do not show cattle – never have. My only interactions with fluffy cows are at the local and state fairs - as I walk through the cattle barns. I think the trend is strange. The fluff can hide many a flaw.
It is my understanding that the animals at shows are supposed to be models of ideal animals in a commercial herd – overall confirmation. For example the best of show in a heifer class ought to be the one that can be led out to the field and be ready for her job as a cow. How can you tell through all that fluff? Just cause she is fluffy don't mean she is quality. I think show cattle should be shown with a normal hair coat. There are things that the show industry is going to need to explain and defend.
It is impressive the grooming and care that go into creating the fluff. I don’t understand the point. I'm certainly not selecting animals because they can grow hair - I want to produce top quality beef.
Second these fluffy cows – are extremely cute. They look like stuffed animals, which in my mind could lead to problems. If we say “cow”is the teddy bear like bovine all the consumer will picture? Will that overly cute and fuzzy image be used against us in a commercial from HSUS with a Sarah Mclaughlin song playing in the background?
Finally how exactly will the fluffy cow educate consumers about beef when it represents a very unique section of the beef industry. Will it confuse the consumer?
How are we going to explain cattle only look like this in the show ring? The average beef cow is not fluffy. Will that prompt questions such as: does that mean non-fluffy cows are not cared for the same way as their fluffy brethren? Are non-fluffy cows neglected because their hair has not been bumped and teased? Is it humane to "fluff" a cow? Are the fluffy cow folks ready to answer these questions and more?
To be fair the fluffy cow thing has drawn some attention to Ag –maybe promoted some intelligent discussion. I am very leery however that it may also be giving our anti-ag friends a new face for their anti-meat, and anti-agriculture campaigns.
Just some things to consider before we all jump on the fluffy cow bandwagon.