Speaking of Food, What’s a heifer?

Detail, psalm 164, oil painting by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com, Copyright 2011
Detail, psalm 164

Strolling of the Heifers is a local fundraising event in nearby Brattleboro, Vermont in early June every year. It is a twist on Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls in Spain. But just what is a heifer?

I was having dinner recently with a Japanese friend and the subject of cows came up. She didn’t realize that cows are all female and just thought that all beef came from cows (as opposed to cattle). This very same mistake was made last week on National Public Radio’s news program  All Things Considered. They corrected themselves the following day ( I’m sure after a deluge of feedback from farmers).

I sense that the further that our society gets from either growing or living nearby its food sources, the more there is confusion about exactly what is on your plate and where it comes from. Our language (English) is not very straightforward about this subject either, with all of its influences from different languages, so it is easy to understand the problem. As a public service, here is a short list of animal and food classifications:


On the farm: Cattle,

On the table: Beef (cattle), veal (calf), milk, cheese


On the farm: Pig, swine (this includes wild varieties)

On the table: Pork


On the farm: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck

On the table: Poultry, eggs


On the farm: Sheep

On the table: mutton, lamb, milk, cheese


On the farm: Goat

On the table: chevon, cabrito (goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world), milk, cheese (chevre)


On the farm: Horse

  • stallion (uncastrated male), mare (female), colt (young male) ,filly (young female), gelding (castrated male), foal (newborn).

On the table: (supposedly) not in America.

The above categories are usually considered meat in America. Folks that eat meat are called carnivores. We also have pescavores that only eat seafood, but I won’t go into that. I have noticed a new category here in Vermont recently, perhaps you have seen it? Localvores. These are people who, in a nod to sustainability, eat only locally sourced foods. Have you seen their bumper-stickers; Eat local. This phrasing always strikes me as a funny term because without the adverbial ending (ly) it sounds like they are all on a diet (low-cal).

Wouldn’t it be much more simple if we all were vegetarians?

Ps. Why do we differentiate ourselves as vegetarians from what we call the rest of the plant-eating animals; herbivores?

To see the full image of this painting psalm 164 click here or go to; RVJart.com