Whether you’re a steak connoisseur or a raw food vegan, you’ve probably wondered at some point why people eat cows at all. Who was the first person who saw a cow wandering around and thought “that looks tasty!”?
It turns out that there are some pretty logical reasons why cows are so widely eaten by humans.
Humans eat cows because they are large and easy to domesticate, their meat is nutritious and they have minimal care requirements which means they are easy to raise in large numbers. Some people choose not to eat cows for religious, ethical, or health reasons.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why people eat cows, discuss why we eat cows but not some other animals like horses and dogs, and look at some of the reasons why some people choose not to eat cows.
Why Do People Eat Cows?
For most animals, there are surprisingly logical reasons why we either do or don’t eat them.
It’s not simply a case of what animals we find worthy of protection or not, but instead usually comes down to a number of factors relating to how easy the animal is to farm, the economics of raising the animal, and the meat yield from each animal.
Read More: How Many People Can One Cow Feed?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we eat cows:
1: Cows Are Large Animals
Cows are very large compared to many other mammals, and they have been selectively bred over hundreds of generations to yield as much meat as possible.
Read More: How Humans Domesticated Cows
Compared to smaller animals like deer, sheep, and goats, cows have a much higher meat yield. Combined with their cheap feeding requirements (grass is free!) cows are a more efficient, more profitable option for farmers.
2: Cows Are Easy to Domesticate
Cows have been domesticated for over 10,000 years now. Modern cows are gentle and easy to handle, although they can still be dangerous due to their size.
There is minimal risk involved with domesticating cows. They are well-adjusted to living with humans and their gentle and cooperative nature makes them easy to farm.
3: Cows Have Minimal Care Requirements
Aside from occasional foot trimming and supplemental dietary requirements over the winter, cows have very minimal care requirements compared to other animals.
Many beef cattle can be left out in the pasture for months at a time without supervision, as long as there is enough land to support their grazing.
4: Beef is Nutritious
Although red meat can be unhealthy in excess, in moderation, beef is nutritious and contains lots of nutrients that the human body can’t produce on its own.
Red meat is one of the few sources of vitamin B12, which is required to keep your cells and circulatory systems functioning properly. A single 3.5oz serving of beef contains more than double your recommended B12 requirement.
Beef is also high in protein and healthy fats, as well as essential minerals including iron, zinc, and selenium.
Why Do We Eat Cows and not Dogs or Cats?
There are two reasons why we choose to eat some animals but not others. We have both a logical reason and an emotional reason.
Logically, cows are more efficient to farm than dogs or cats. Cows eat grass, grains, and wild weeds like clover whereas dogs and cats need to be fed on meat, which is inefficient. Emotionally, our society thinks of dogs and cats as pets in a way that we don’t for cows.
Read More: Are Cows Omnivores?
1: We See Dogs as Pets
Although cows have been domesticated for 10,000 years, there is some evidence that suggests dogs have been domesticated for up to 40,000 years.
Dogs are seen as human companions, whereas cattle are simply seen as food. The word “cattle” is derived from the French word ‘chattel’ which means property.
Although we afford a special place in our hearts for dogs, cows are extremely intelligent and capable of the same complex feelings, emotions, and behaviors as dogs and the distinction we make is purely societal.
In some parts of the world (notably India) cows are seen as the intelligent, sentient beings that they are and are considered sacred. To a Hindu, eating a cow would be as ethically wrong as eating a dog or cat would to someone from the west.
2: Cows are Easier and more Efficient to Feed
Cows need a lot of food. The amount of food it takes to raise a cow could feed more humans than the cow would, so they are inherently inefficient to raise for meat.
Although raising cows for meat is not an efficient use of land compared to raising crops, raising a carnivore like dogs is a whole other level of inefficiency.
To feed a carnivorous animal like dogs, you would first have to raise another animal to make the food to feed the dogs. Humans eat very few carnivorous animals, with the notable exception of fish.
Related Article: Do Cows Get Ticks and Fleas?
Why Do Some People Not Eat Cows?
Many people choose not to eat meat at all, some people eat meat but not cows specifically. Let’s explore some of the reasons
1: Religious Reasons
Many religions make proclamations about what type of meat is or is not permitted.
The most notable religion when it comes to cows is Hinduism, which regards cows as sacred.
Related Article: Why Do Cows Wear Bells?
2: Ethical Reasons
Without getting into an ethical debate, many people have concerns about animal welfare in the beef industry, especially around the treatment of veal calves.
Veal crates have been banned in many parts of the world, and jurisdictions like Canada and the European Union are making progress towards introducing stricter animal welfare regulations.
3: Health Reasons
Red meat like beef is high in cholesterol and is known to contribute to many illnesses including gout, high blood pressure, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes.
Although red meat is potentially dangerous in large quantities, in moderation a small serving of red meat is perfectly healthy and contains essential nutrients that can be hard to find elsewhere.
To sum up, we eat cows because they are large and efficient to farm, they have minimal care and feeding requirements, and their gentle, docile nature makes them easy to work with.
Although cows may need supplemental grains through the cold winters, in the summer cows can feed solely on grass, which is essentially a free renewable resource if the climate is warm enough.
Some people choose not to eat cows for religious reasons, health reasons, or ethical reasons.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.