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Fluffy, It’s What For Dinner

      It is funny on what gets people’s attention these days - whether its a television ad or something on the internet. An internet post captured American’s attention this last couple of weeks when a picture of a “fluffy cow” showed up and became an instant hit.

The pictures came from an Iowa farm that raises show cattle and recently updated their website. Most likely through a search, someone picked up photos of the show cattle on Reddit and spread them around. Reddit, as they told me around the office, is kind of the front page of the internet. It looks to me like it is the beginning of all the jokes and pictures that everybody sends you. Nonetheless, it was the beginning of the so-called fluffy cows. 

The cows that are raised on the Lautner Farms from around Adel, Iowa are bred to compete in cattle shows and have long hair that when prepared for a show does have that fluffy look – a look I’ve never seen on the ranch or anywhere in Wyoming for that matter. 

A spokesperson for Lautner Farms said that the cows are a cross between several high-quality breeds and, “On show day, there is a two hour preparation time before hitting the show ring.” From what I understand, Lautner Farms is a large operation raising lots of show cattle for sale and themselves and is a well-run business. They know what they’re doing and do it well.

While the public has accepted the look of the cattle, some in the cattle business are a little more reserved. One person said, “I have long said that fairs are a great platform for beef producers to interact with consumers, as it’s a public display of animal care and welfare. I think it’s crucial that we remind the young people showing, as well as their families, the judges and the hired guns who help fit these cattle for the show ring, that we are in the business of raising beef to feed and nourish consumers – end of story. While I think it’s great that the ‘fluffy cow’ has made 4-H, FFA and junior shows ‘cool and sexy’ in consumers’ eyes, I worry that we may unintentionally cause a ‘Disney effect’ on our beef industry. After all, aren’t we popularizing a food animal into a ‘fluffy cow’ that looks much like a cute and cuddly stuffed animal?”

The person has a point, and I’m hearing PETA is getting in on the action, asking readers online how they could ever eat that cute, fluffy cow. Some consumers are agreeing with them.

Owners of the Lautner Farms are already working to reframe the conversation. They are developing messages that stress youth in agriculture, family involvement and beef production and all of the hard work that goes into showing cattle and the larger picture of beef production.

The Lautner family has come up with a niche in beef production, and it’s working for them, in fact, too well. We need a strong beef checkoff to educate the consumer that gets led astray by PETA and others.