This is one happy cow
No smacking, no prodding, no shouting. Britain's most enlightened farms are revolutionising the way meat is reared. And the reason? Contented cattle make great steaks. Read more from Alex Renton on happy cows and farming on our food blog
The boggy fields around Bill Cassells' bungalow are dotted with great humps of ginger hair, like an invasion of alien fungus. Venture a little closer and you find that these move. Behind curtain-sized fringes are huge brown eyes and above them a spread of horns a good three feet wide. These are Highland cattle and, for all that they look like half a ton of fright wig on legs, they're the epitome of mellow. They wander over to inspect us at Bill's call, and are hardly put out even when Murdo, OFM's photographer, starts planting lighting reflectors and flash guns around them. Anna, the five- year-old matriarch of this 75-strong herd, slouches forward to pose for the picture with all the cool of a catwalk veteran. These are happy cattle, these Highlanders. They live outside on the hills above Scotland's River Spey, eating heather and the moorland grass, supplemented in winter with draff, the malty remains of the grain used in the nearby whisky distilleries.
What could top the "Got Milk?" campaign from the 1990s?
The Happy Cows campaign from California!
Apparently there's a bit of competition between USA states for buyers of cheese. Hmmm will I get Vermont cheese or California cheese? To help people decide, the California Milk Advisory Board commissioned Deutsch Los Angeles to make some very expensive but very effective TV ads. The result? A series of vignettes in which we are informed that dairy cows living in California just love it there. So the milk has to be better!
"Great cheese comes from happy cows.
Happy cows come from California."
On the Real California Cheese web site there are three of the TV spots available. Big Sheep - reminiscent of Braveheart. "Breaking Out" - a dairy farm set in the Arctic, or is it Vermont? "Girl Talk" - what the gender-related chat of cows might sound and look like.
To see the ads go to www.realcaliforniacheese.com
Click to get past the splash screen, then choose "Happy Cows", and "Happy Cow TV".
While you're there you can even download a happy cows calendar, or purchase a cute and cuddly set of happy cows puppets.
Now what makes this campaign interesting is the 'anti-campaign' by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, found at www.unhappycows.com PETA took the California Milk Advisory Board to court for misrepresentation of the lot of dairy cows. According to their suit, dairy cows often have to put up with dusty, muddy and dirty conditions. Picturing them in green fields is misleading. The court suit was unsuccessful. It may have lead to a higher interest in the happy cows. And what do the happy/unhappy cows think of it all I wonder?