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Keeping It Local: Meat-Eating With the Mobile Matanza
Thursday, 28 July 2011 00:00  |  Written by Joan McGrane | Blog Entry

Mobile Matanza photo courtesy of the Taos County Economic Development CorporationI’m definitely a city girl, but I’ve adjusted well to living in a rural environment.  In the city, my commute included bridge tolls and high stress. Now, it’s a 10-minute drive down a two-lane road through expanses of pastureland owned by farmers and ranchers, most of whose families have lived on this land for centuries. Rural living can provide great value to one’s life in many ways, not least by offering greater access to organic vegetables, fruits and even meats.

We all know the health benefits of eating organically grown fruits and vegetables; organically raised meats offer some of the same benefits—better taste and texture, with no unwanted hormones or antibiotics. And it matters to me that the animal had a peaceful life of roaming and grazing.

Here in Taos, many small ranchers have access to the services of a mobile slaughtering unit called the Mobile Matanza. “Matanza” means slaughter in Spanish, but it connotes other things too, like harvest, sharing and bounty.

The white truck with the butcher on board comes to the animals, a stun gun knocks them out and a knife is used to sever an artery. The slaughter is done in as humane a way as possible. The butcher cuts it, wraps it for refrigeration or freezing, and leaves the rest for the rancher to compost. It’s all USDA approved.

The Mobile Matanza is operated by the Taos County Economic Development Corporation. Terrie Bad Hand and Pati Martinson, co-directors of the TCEDC, founded it 21 years ago, but the Mobile Matanza program is just two years old.

Initial market research conducted by the TCEDC in the Taos area back in the 80s consisted of door-to-door, neighbor-by-neighbor inquiry. The results of that research established that the greatest need of farmers and ranchers was affordable food production.

The Mobile Matanza covers a 100-mile radius and services only livestock (no game). Most common are cattle, pigs, sheep, bison, goats and yaks. The cost to the farmers is about 60 cents per pound, far less than the cost of having to transport the animals over great distances for the slaughter.

The organically raised meat is available at the local organic grocery store, or you and a friend can share the cost and pay your neighbor the farmer to raise an animal for you.  Almost everyone lives near a farm where they can buy an animal to provide a winter’s sustenance.

Terrie and Pati envision the Mobile Matanza in other parts of the state, but that will depend on continued funding from the state and the support of Governor Richardson.

The Mobile Matanza is a win for all and an excellent model for the future economic sustainability of small ranches and farms. The local economy benefits by keeping its small farming alive, meat eaters get access to the best unadulterated meat and the animals’ suffering is minimized by their not having to be herded and transported great distances to the slaughter.

Additional resources:
Breaking Down the Bones: How to Compost Meat and Other Animal Products
How to Compost and Build a Compost Heap
Why Mother Nature Loves a Vegan

Comments (4)add
Written by jan mellon , April 20, 2009
Excellent idea for Mother Earth & the humans who inhabit it. Hope the "Matanza" catches on in other parts of the country.
Nice to hear about new ideas. Thanks for the post!
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Written by Kenny , April 20, 2009
Matanza is hispanic term for slaughter, but is is more about a celebration of a bounty, or harvest, most happen in the fall. It's a pig, that is bled out, then roasted overnite in the ground in hot coals, best pork I have ever eaten in my life. This is usually a two or three day celebration, I have memories of like 25 cousins running around all of my relatives, some of the best times I can remember in my childhood, still attend one every now and then.
this is a great way for a lot of the smaller, or poorer ranchers who need this service. Getting your food local, whether it is meat or vegetables is the best way to go. You should always know where your food comes from, especially in these times of all these crazy salmonella scares
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Written by jenny , April 20, 2009
I've read on this site ( ) and others that veganism and vegetarianism are better for the environment than meat eating. But, if you are going to eat meat, I guess it's better to eat locally raised, organically fed and humanely slaughtered animals. I think it's a good idea though to try to transition to a non-meat diet for the good of the earth and your own health--if not your karma.
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Written by Rich Bard , April 20, 2009
Incredible. I've read several times about small scale livestock ranchers who can't sell their meat in stores because they don't have access to a USDA packing and inspection facility. Often, the ranchers stand on principle, refusing to subject their beloved animals to a terrifying journey and a horrific death at a commercial slaughterhouse after a happy life on the farm. With the mobile matanza unit, the animal can have a respectful end in the same place where it lived its life.

What a great example of a local Economic Development agency project that meets an existing need for everyone's benefit, as unconventional as it is for those of us who don't live in a ranching environment. Thanks for the great info.
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