At just under a year old, we were already Popcorn’s fourth home. He was taken from his mother shortly after birth and sold at auction, which is what happens to most young males born to mothers of the dairy industry. He was purchased by inexperienced people who bought him to be low grade meat. They discovered quickly that a baby cow in the living room isn’t sustainable and placed him on Facebook for free. The man who picked him up was a meat producer of Black Angus cows, and he tossed Popcorn in the pasture with his other animals. The dramatic difference in his looks caught the attention of the ladies of the house, who passed down the directive, “that one is too beautiful to eat”. When they reached out to us to see if we would be interested in giving him a home, we immediately agreed.
Popcorn’s name came from a little girl we met at the coffee shop on our way to pick him up from his previous home. She was wearing rainbow socks and red sparkly shoes. We asked if she had any name suggestions for our new cow friend, and she shyly whispered, “Popcorn.” When we met him, we knew it was perfect.
Popcorn is a Jersey steer. While people typically use the word cow as a catchall phrase for bovines, he is a neutered male, which is called a steer. There is frequent confusion about how a male can be considered part of the dairy industry, since males do not produce milk. Just like with humans, 50 percent of all babies are born male. Seeing as how it is unnecessary to have that many males for breeding purposes, and it is an inconvenience to house and feed them, the males are considered byproducts who need to be removed quickly from the herd. Their fate is either that they are confined in veal crates or they go to auction to be sold for low-grade meat. Depending on their breed, dairy males like Popcorn, who are lucky enough to find sanctuary, can live for well over 15-20 years.