The Joy of Sacrifice: Burger Up + Triple L Ranch

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. 
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
John 12:24
Patrick and I aren’t vegetarians. We eat meat, lots of it. And so when we had an opportunity to visit Triple L Ranch  for hayrides, cocktails, and a multi-couse meal of fresh organic beef prepared by Burger Up’s renowned chef Philip Shyatt, we didn’t think twice.
That is, until we got to the ranch.

We arrived, canopied by blue skies and oranged trees. A bank of clouds stacked thick in the distance, like a towering mountain range had emerged from an unknown southeastern fault. Along soft fields of grass, heifers and bulls plodded from side to side, and shot me sullen glances. Like a child, I thought, I’m going to eat one of those.
For a moment, though, I put that thought out of my mind and tried to sip on a glass of wine and enjoy the view unperturbed. But when we gathered on a farm truck’s extra-long flatbed to ride across 900 acres of beauty, the thought came back again.
“This calf was born just a few hours ago,” said Steven Lee, pointing from his perch on the side of the truck. Steven is one of five siblings that own the ranch, and he’s got  leathery skin and cowboy boots to prove it. When he pointed, the calf’s mother looked toward us: udder full, eyes wide. And we rode on. We passed other infant calves, and across the flatbed you could hear people counting, “One… two… No! There’s three!”

When we finished the hayride, the sun disappeared behind the cloud mountain. We took our seats at a small rectangular table draped with a brown tablecloth. A lantern glowed yellow light across a small vase of flowers and two miniature cast iron pans filled with dollops of spiced honey butter. But before a single course was served, Steven addressed his guests and described the ranch’s history.

In turn, people began to ask questions: “Can I order beef from Triple L Ranch?”; Yes. “Do you ship across the United States?”; It’s expensive, but yes. Steven explained that his favorite part of the job is seeing new calves born, and caring for them into adulthood. His wife called out from the back—Steven knows every single cow’s number and parentage by heart. And then came the question on everyone’s mind…

“If you form such a strong bond with each animal, is it hard when it has to end?”

That’s the question, isn’t it? If you create this big, beautiful ranch, and care for all these large, majestic animals—how can you sit back and watch one of your own creation go to the slaughterhouse?

That’s when Miranda, the owner of Burger Up, chimed in. In front of all of her guests, some of Burger Up’s strongest supporters, she explained that she chose to experience the entire process at nearby Mennonite facility that Triple L Ranch uses. She described holding the cow’s face in her hands, and crying the whole way through and the whole way home. It’s done respectfully, she said. And because of the cow’s sacrifice, we were gathered at the table to enjoy a meal. 
Its a strange truth: there must be sacrifice to be true joy. We must have death to have life. 
What I felt sitting at that table, surrounded by people I barely knew, was a sacred moment. We were just there to eat a delicious meal—but instead, the gospel showed up. The good news is that the shedding of blood can forge relationships. We experience that truth on a much smaller scale every single day when we sit down for a meal. And it’s as true for a steak dinner as it is for a vegetarian farm meal. The seed of any plant must die before it can give its fruit; it is only through sacrifice that true life is given. 
The rest of the meal was a complete joy. Honest conversation. Hearty laughter. Bulleit Bourbon Coke Floats. A rowdy bus ride back to Nashville. 
We didn’t think twice about going, but I’m glad we thought twice while we were there.