livestock market
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These lambs were transported from all over northern Scotland to attend Lairg's great annual lamb sale.

The idyllic days of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are ebbing away in the modern world, and chances are good that if steak is on the grocery list, whatever gets picked up at the store isn't from around these parts. Getting all the animals (whether they're cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, poultry or another type of livestock) from the farms and ranches where they're bred and raised off to their intended destinations typically means taking a little drive -- although air, ship, rail and good old hooves are other potential alternatives.

But traveling to slaughterhouses, markets and other locales with livestock isn't as easy as loading a herd of kids into the car and setting off cross-country. Children can be a handful, sure, whining about how so-and-so is poking them and filling a small, enclosed space with shrill hollers of "Are we there yet?" That being said, hours jammed into the backseat of a car aren't likely to cause children any serious -- and potentially life-threatening -- discomfort, stress, fear, pain or injury.

That's why the people in charge of transporting livestock typically take special precautions to make sure the animals in their care are properly prepared and guided through the loading, transporting and unloading process. In many cases, these steps are dictated by laws intended to protect the animals from harm and ensure they're treated in a humane manner.

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But while that's important, it's not all there is to the story. If an animal is destined to become dinner, rough handling decreases the quality, flavor and color of the finished meat product because a stressed, frightened animal soars through key energy reserves. While letting livestock rest before slaughter can in many cases reverse this damage, taken in tandem with the idea that humane practices are important morally, it's good sense to keep the ride from being too brutal. Other bad outcomes are bruising, hide damage and various injuries, which also greatly decrease livestock's value.

On the next page we'll take a look inside the trailers used to transport livestock.