Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue?
Parents like social media super dad, author and podcaster Sean Szeps have to navigate all sorts of curly questions from their curious kids.
But what happens when they don’t know the answer?
For Sean, it wasn’t a question about babies. He knew that!
His young daughter Stella wanted to know where her food came from.
A farm? Do the animals live there? Are they happy?
Sean did the best he could to answer Stella’s nagging, but in truth, he didn’t know the full answer.
So he did what any cornered parent would do. He made something up. Kidding. He went straight to the source - the expert beef farmers at ‘Woko Station’ near Gloucester NSW - to find out.
“My daughter…wanted to understand a lot about everything we were eating. And so you have to ask yourself, ‘What am I buying so I feel comfortable giving her answers to those questions?’.”
Sean can now tell Stella the cattle are living their best livestock lives.
He saw firsthand how the farmers raised contented cattle that are comfortable, engaged, calm and safe. By providing access to shade, quality food and clean water, as well as being treated with respect and kept with their buddies, these cattle are just about the happiest you could find. Nothing like the documentaries had shown.
Aussie farmers like Robert ‘Macka’ Mackenzie follow best practice guidelines designed to protect the welfare and wellbeing of animals.
That includes the industry’s commitment to the ‘Five Domains of Animal Welfare’ - the internationally recognised standard for optimal animal health and welfare, which covers nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state.
It recognises that providing positive experiences and meeting animals’ emotional needs is just as important as physical ones.
Back in the city, a more knowledgeable Sean now feels confident shopping for dinner for Stella and her twin brother Cooper, knowing he’s making informed decisions about the food he’s putting on the table.
Now, about that blue sky question, Dad.
It wouldn’t be surprising to find fart jokes amongst the parenting shtick on content creator and self- proclaimed internet clown @seansSzeps’ socials. He is after all a dad to 6 year old twins.
But it was no laughing matter when he took a trip to an Aussie beef farm and discovered everything he knew about cow farts and methane emissions was just a lot of hot air.
Before the visit, Sean thought all that farting made red meat one of Australia’s least sustainable industries. And he’s not alone – turns out loads of Aussies don’t know the truth about cows’ bodily functions…
“I just had these theories in my head from the media that cows must be farting a lot of methane into the world. Well, I now know that they don’t, that is not true.”
Most of the emissions from cattle don’t come from their rear end at all. It comes from the other end, when they exhale, burp and belch as they chew and digest their food.
It won’t win the animals any awards for manners, but, as Sean learnt, it’s an important process that plays a key role in the sustainability of a farm.
That methane is a by-product from cattle digesting the cellulose in grasses and plants - something we humans can’t do. The methane emissions break down into carbon dioxide within about 12 years and is captured by plants as part of their photosynthesis process.
Where does it end up? Stored in plants and grasses as carbohydrates. And who eats it? The cows! And the sustainable cycle continues. Basically… it’s all that stuff they were trying to teach you in year nine science.
As farmers plant more grasses including high-quality varieties that can reduce the amount of methane produced during digestion, they’re helping reduce emissions. And they’re doing it sustainably, including on land not suitable for growing crops.
As Sean discovered, that makes the red meat industry one of Australia’s most sustainable.
Ignorance is bliss? Not for Sean Szeps. Knowledge is power.
Now he just needs to rewrite his fart jokes.