Why does the LDS Church own cattle ranches? (D&C 89:12–13)

By Jane Birch 

There is no commandment against owning cattle ranches. I’m sure there are many reasons why the Church owns cattle ranches. But one reason is certainly not because the Lord thinks meat is a health food that everyone should be eating (see D&C 89:12–13).

Note that during the 19-century prophets and apostles also encouraged the local production of tea, coffee, tobacco and alcoholic beverages for the Mormon market “in order to save the money that was being sent out of the territory to purchase these items” (see Dialogue pg. 70). This was before these substances were strictly prohibited by the Church. I think it is safe to say that their encouragement of this industry was not an endorsement of their health value, nor did it imply that the Lord wanted His Saints to consume these substances.

Likewise, the Church used to run a huge sugar business (sold off in the 1980s). There is no commandment against producing sugar, but I don’t think the fact that the Church owned a sugar business meant that the Lord was endorsing sugar as a health food! Even if the Church owned the largest sugar refiner in the world, I am confident God would feel fine we chose to abstain.

In our day, the Church decided to invest in the development of City Creek Mall ($1.5 billion project) in downtown Salt Lake City. The fact that the Church funded this project does not mean everything about the Mall is in harmony with the highest gospel teachings. Retailers, for example, are allowed to sell alcohol and stay open on Sunday.

Eating meat is not prohibited by LDS leaders, but the Lord’s counsel is that we eat it sparingly and preferably only in times of need (winter, cold, or famine). I’m grateful the Church is prepared to feed more Saints should these circumstances arise. According to a statement put out by the Church, “investment farms and ranches support the Church’s mission and principles by serving as a rainy-day fund.” President Gordon B. Hinckley “explained why the Church invests a portion of its rainy-day savings in farms and ranches,” by stating:

We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the Church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need. (see “Church-Owned Ranch Balances Agriculture and Conservation in Central Florida”)

This seems in line with the Lord’s words in D&C 89 that meat is ordained for our use primarily during in times of need (see D&C 89:13).

See also: Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch

Last updated December 19, 2017


  1. I believe part of the Word of Wisdom is to raise our food, including gardens and raising animals. There are many, many great life lessons from gardening, raising an orchard and animal husbandry.

  2. These are valid points. The Church leadership I accept cannot take decisions to referendum or opinion polling. However, although I am sure I enjoy some of the benefits of the C’s current financial structure/subsidies/businesses/ventures, ethical living is something dear to many. I would prefer we do not indulge in cattle farming. It entails a spoiling of the subtle order of peace that some who embrace the religion of Joseph try to live. But reconciling this with economic realities, needs for large disposable cash quantities and a general laissez-faire attitude is not possible unless the church becomes a politicised body.

    I am against cattle farming but I won’t shout activist anger out of a speakerphone not polite the fall of the Mormon order. It’s all about peace and fighting the wise fight.

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