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Cows Remain At Large After Breakout At Idaho Meat Plant

Cows were running free in Pocatello, Idaho, Tuesday, following in the hooves of a feisty heifer that escaped from a meat packing plant Friday. The pursuit of that cow made national headlines; five cows have now broken out of the plant in the past four days.

Two cows remain at large, part of a cohort of at least four animals that made a run for it Sunday. Their escape came two days after a 1,000-pound cow broke out by reportedly jumping a 6-foot fence.

Of the five cows, one was captured and taken back to Anderson Custom Pack in Pocatello. Two others have been shot – including the heifer that had escaped on Friday.

That cow did not go quietly, rushing at plant co-owner Jesse Anderson (leaving him with two broken ribs) and leading animal control officers on a long chase through residential areas. Video reports from Friday show the cow trotting through yards.

"Police shot the animal twice before it died," The Idaho Statesman says. "The cow had nearly caused accidents on Hawthorne Road by running up the middle of the street and had rammed two police cars and an animal control truck."

Officials in Pocatello say the shootings were justified, as the runaway cows present a safety risk. But the Idaho State Journal reports today that Anderson and his wife, the owners of the plant, say they "have received 'hate mail' from animal activist groups."

The Andersons say they suspect foul play in Sunday's breakout, as they found a gate had been pushed open.

There's also a chance that the cows were targets of an attempted heist: higher beef prices have reportedly led to a rash of cattle thefts in recent weeks.

"The two missing cows are valued at about $1,500 a piece, giving thieves a motive," local TV news KIDK reports.

According to the State Journal, the two cows "were spotted by Union Pacific Railroad police in the rail yard around 10:30 a.m. Monday."

That sighting prompts an odd idea: what if those cows jumped a train?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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