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7/15/2017

Mark Zuckerberg had lunch with the Norman family on their 2,500 acre cattle ranch in South Dakota

 Mark Zuckerberg had lunch  with the Norman family on their 2,500 acre cattle ranch in South Dakota

I had lunch today with the Norman family on their 2,500 acre cattle ranch in South Dakota.

Several years ago at Facebook, our chefs cooked a whole pig. I remember someone saying it would be delicious but she wished she didn't have to see where the meat came from. 

I've always thought we should be thankful and understand where our food comes from -- so for that year I set a goal to only eat meat that I killed and helped butcher myself.
 Mark Zuckerberg had lunch  with the Norman family on their 2,500 acre cattle ranch in South Dakota

A lot of our cattle starts in South Dakota where there are about three times as many cows as people. The Normans raise calves until they're about 600 pounds and then send them to feed lots to get fattened and harvested. A lot of cattle are fertilized through artificial insemination. As we were talking, it became clear "AI" means something very different out here!

South Dakota is in its third year of a bad drought, and that makes it tough to feed the cattle. One of the ranchers told me it's the worst drought he can remember -- and maybe the worst since the 1930s. The family will probably need to shrink their herd of 500 cattle by 10-15% since that's all the land can support.

The Normans talked about other challenges -- from regulations limiting the hours trucks can be on the road at a time (increasing the risk that cattle will die in the back), to high-frequency trading that makes cattle prices more volatile and harder to set, to the lack of harvesting plants nearby that means some cattle has to be sent as far as China to be slaughtered.
 Mark Zuckerberg had lunch  with the Norman family on their 2,500 acre cattle ranch in South Dakota

But overall, they seemed optimistic that technology was making their work easier. They talked about how their machinery was now more stable, how the balers that make bales of hay now measure the moisture of the hay to make sure it's ideal, and how they might use drones to monitor the herd in the near future.

The Normans are proud of the work they do -- not just feeding the country, but helping provide things like insulin, leather and makeup ingredients that also come from cattle. 

Thanks to the Normans for welcoming me into their home. Families like theirs don't always get a lot of credit, but we depend on the work they do.

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