A Word of Caution:  If you are eating right now or plan to eat in the next few minutes, let me suggest that you close this page and return to read this post at a later time.  What I am going to share has a significant “yuck factor,” to quote a person interviewed in a story reported last week by Sarah McBride on NPR’s All Things Considered

The story was about tourists who are trekking from as far away as Switzerland to Nevada’s Carson Valley for an event called Eagles and Agriculture, which is now in its ninth year.  While other birds of prey like hawks, falcons, and owls can be seen in great numbers in the region during February and March, bald eagles are the main draw.  Ranchers open their gates for people by the busload to get up close and personal with these iconic American raptors.

But what attracts so many of these majestic birds at this time of year?  Cow afterbirth!  That’s right!  Cow afterbirth!  In Carson Valley, it is the peak of the calving season, during which thousands of calves are born each year.  Some cows eat the placenta (I warned you!), but most of it is left for scavengers, both airborne and terrestrial.  While coyotes don’t offer too much incentive for tourists, bald eagles are a surefire crowd-pleaser! 

Here is the aspect of the story that I love.  You have the “circle of life” in which cattle give birth to calves, creating a rather gross by-product that bald eagles and other birds of prey find impossible to resist, and a diverse group of enterprising people in the region says, “I think we can use this to stimulate the local economy.”  Eagles and Agriculture is jointly sponsored by ranchers, the Carson Valley Visitors Authority, Audubon Society, Great Basin Birding Observatory, Carson Valley Conservation District, Carson Valley Inn, and Cooperative Extension.  Has it been successful?  The tour completely sold out this year!

If good old American ingenuity can turn cow afterbirth into cash, I’ve got all the confidence in the world that our nation will pull out of the current recession.  It’s just a matter of time!       

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