A hooved animal that ferments food in their stomachs before digesting it. They then regurgitate it into their mouths and chew it again to break it down further. This is known as “chewing the cud.”
The category includes cattle, goats, sheep – most things that graze on grass, it seems.
Interestingly, this is related to “ruminate,” the concept of thinking very carefully and repetitively about something. Sources differ on which usage came first, but the central metaphor is to “re-chew” or “re-process” something – either by physically regurgitating it and chewing it again, or turning it around in your head over and over.
Why I Looked It Up
In a discussion of nutrition and livestock.
Corn-fed beef sounds wholesome, but it isn’t. Cattle are ruminants and when they are fed corn they fatten more quickly but are more prone to illness.
It’s a bit of an odd usage, because the fact that cows are ruminants doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the sentence. I feel like the author should have explained how being a ruminant causes an animal to fatten more quickly from corn.