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Livestock Appellations for California?

The potential to shift rangeland economies to less demanding livestock adapted to the environment and particular flora of each local area (see Criollo Cattle? ), offers the tantalizing possibility of livestock “appellations”, similar to California’s American Viticultural Areas.

Appellations would be based on local terroir as it (along with the livestock) develops over time with rangeland restoration – in contrast with the generally homogeneous flavors of  most retail meats fattened on common agricultural grains.

Most California beef cattle, for example, get shipped east for fattening up on midwestern corn prior to butchering, though a few feedlots remain within the state.  So even the most “vertically integrated” large California beef operations typically do not control that step in the process to market.

Henry Miller, “industrial cowboy” (Igler 2005), mid-to late 19th, early 20th century forerunner of the California cattle industry, would be unimpressed.

Livestock appellations could intercept that primarily eastward transportation of cattle, allowing more vertically integrated cattle and other livestock operations to stay close to home throughout finishing, the meats taking on the distinctive flavors of each home turf, or terroir.

Reducing livestock shipping clearly has implications for the carbon footprints of cattle operations, in terms of reducing transportation fuels.  Reduction of petroleum-based products used in growing feedlot crops is another factor.

Reducing cattle consumption of feedlot crops, especially given cattle lines adapted to xeric environments, should significantly reduce the quantity of water required to bring each pound of beef to market.

Reducing the need for both transportation and feed crops can significantly reduce production costs, allowing more of the profits to return to/ stay with the rancher.

Exciting potential for natural selection over time of site-specific “indigenous”/ ‘indigenized’ livestock, along with potential for revived game stocks, could put a new spin on locovore & “Paleo” diets.  


Igler, David.  2005.  Industrial cowboys: Miller & Lux and the transformation of the far west, 1850-1920.  Univ of California Press.