When I took the plunge and bought a dairy cow, I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Holstein. Holsteins are the black and white cows that you see in the fields everywhere and they are popular with dairy farmers because they have been bred for one purpose and one purpose only – to produce as much milk as possible. So much milk that when their udder is full it’s grotesquely distended. I went for a honey coloured Jersey instead even though they produce half the milk of a Holstein, but at least I could bear to look at the thing.
Holsteins produce good milk, but poor meat, which is why they are never used for meat production. But this causes a problem because cows need to have calves in order to keep on making milk and half of the calves are male which, for obvious reasons, are hopeless at making milk. So it’s the normal practice to shoot male calves when they are five days old. Farmers don’t like doing this, but they’ve no alternative as Holstein meat is unsaleable. Until now that is. The marketing guys at McDonalds have ridden to their rescue. They know the value of letting their customers know that they sell only British beef. They also know that their customers aren’t at all fussy about the quality of what they eat. Why not, then, sell them meat that no self-respecting butcher would touch, but which they can truthfully call British. A dairy farmer on Farming Today gave away the story when he explained that it costs him £800 to feed a male calf for a year, but McDonalds will pay him £900 for the carcase and even a paltry £100 profit makes it worthwhile. I was amused to hear the farmer add that McDonalds’s aren’t alone in this racket – his other customer is Tescos.