Happy Cows vs. Picture-Perfect Cows

by kirstin on October 29, 2010

Jersey Cow

Jersey Cow

There was a bit of a backlash to a recent story I wrote for the LA Times, called “Artisan cheese-making brings them a new slice of life.” It wasn’t concerning the topic, the farmer’s stories, or inaccuracies in the article, the issue was about the cow in the photo. Some readers were convinced that she was on death’s door.

Because of  reader reaction, the Humane Society paid a visit to the Bianchi-Moreda’s Valley Ford farm.

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Lady The Cow

The Bianchi-Moredas thought nothing of taking a picture with Lady, the cow in the photo. They were proud of her. Cheesemaker Karen Bianchi-Moreda calls her “one of my girls, ” and boasts that she has won numerous awards in fairs across the state. And, although some say she has the spirit of a cow four years younger, she looks a little more frail than the average heifer wandering around a dairy farm. She is also a Jersey, a very angular breed that weighs 500 pounds less than the average female milking black and white cow (Holstein) featured on milk carton pictures.

Is this a case of reader’s expecting to see a plump cow that they see in pictures who’ve never visited a farm? I wasn’t certain. After responding to reader letters, I found that some of reader’s families grew up on farms with different cow breeds, so they had quite a bit of experience with farm animals, but they didn’t know what Jerseys looked like. Others were animal lovers concerned about jutting rib bones.

Want to get more of the back story about what the Humane Society found out when they visited the farm? Read about it here. LA Times Editor Russ Parsons blogs about reader reaction.

How many of us might make think the same about the photo? What does this mean to you?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

kfroark October 29, 2010 at 10:08 AM

It’s clearly an OLD cow. I’m not a vet but her coat looks pretty darn healthy. Common sense people!

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Anita October 29, 2010 at 10:23 AM

While the explanation makes sense, so does readers’ concern. Anticipating that concern and including a bit of the explanation in the photo caption might’ve been helpful, as would publishing a photo that didn’t highlight her boniness *quite* so much.

I am firmly on the side of folks who are concerned for animal welfare, but I can tell after reading the backstory that this is not an issue in this cow’s case. On behalf of photographers (and newspaper editors?) everywhere I apologize for the photograph distracting from what was a wonderfully written article!

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kirstin October 29, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Anita- I agree. The reader’s concern for the animal’s welfare was real and heart-felt. And about the photo- can’t say that I don’t agree that a better angle or different shot could have been used- Lady likely has a better side. I do love the brightness of her eyes in the photo though.
Thanks for the article compliment.
Krista, isn’t her coat gloriousness? Shiny, healthy, happy, Clariol.

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penny October 29, 2010 at 2:52 PM

i did indeed think “wow that is a crazy looking cow” but never in a billion years would i have thought the human society would need to be called in. and really, if they WERE abusing their cow why would they allow a photo of it in the newspaper? the human society has plenty of other cow-related atrocities that it should be attending to.

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KD October 29, 2010 at 5:13 PM

I think you meant black and white cow.

Great article and long, happy life to Lady.

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Laurie Figone October 29, 2010 at 7:25 PM

I personally know Karen Bianchi-Moreda and I know that she treats all of her herd as well as her family. And by the way, her cheese is one of the best!!

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nicia pettyjohn October 30, 2010 at 1:53 AM

I thought it was really funny that the readership of an L.A. paper would focus on the weight of the cow. I love my home town.

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It's Not You, it's Brie November 1, 2010 at 8:48 AM

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, and Laurie, short of feeding them at the dinner table, it does seem that Bianchi-Moreda treats “her girls” exactly as family.

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Colloquial Cook November 1, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Super interesting. I hadn’t anticipated people would react on that aspect of the picture. Jerseys are quite common in France, they are gorgeous little cows. And the taste of their milk? It’s insane!! By far my favorite.

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