Have knives and hooks, will travel

  • Lee Knox prepares his tools for his next client

    Megan Bowers photo
  • Lee Knox

    Megan Bowers photo
 

Name The Mobile Matanza

Hometown Taos, New Mexico

Measurements 36 feet long by 13 feet, 6 inches tall

Items on her wish list Gloves, hook-eye sharpener, meat band saw blades, meat grinder plates, three-way oilstone, platters, long butchering aprons, butchering supplies and knives, brushes and scrapers.

 

She’s sleek, full-figured and gleaming white, though not exactly sexy. From nose to rear, she measures a firm 36 feet, all polished metal on the inside. She can accommodate 10 at a time — 10 animal units, that is — and she has her own inspection table and, toward the back, an offal chute.

She’s the Mobile Matanza — a rolling livestock butchering unit and the pride of Taos County. The Taos County of skiing Texans and sticker-shock real estate is still the Taos County of family ranchers, many of whom eke out a living on fewer than 100 acres, running their cattle on northern New Mexico’s forests in the summer. Most of them then send their livestock off to feedlots and slaughterhouses in other states, where the animals are subsumed into the mass meat market. But the Taos County Economic Development Corporation would like to change all that.

With funding from the state, the corporation’s directors, Pati Martinson and Terrie Bad Hand, have found a way to bring the butcher to the ranchers and perhaps the meat to expanding local markets. Beginning this spring, cattle, pigs, lambs, goats, even bison, will trot up the ramp leading into the back of the Mobile Matanza, where they’ll be met by Lee Knox, coordinator of the program.

Grinning boyishly, Knox shows off the Mobile Matanza. He looks the part of a truck driver/butcher, with a black cowboy hat that pushes him well beyond six feet tall, and a wide girth that indicates he’s capable of wrestling just about any animal reluctant to go to slaughter.

Once Knox has killed and butchered his four-legged client, an on-site state inspector examines its organs and the entrails go out the offal chute. From there, the meat is placed in a room toward the front of the trailer, the doors are closed, and the next animal is led into the trailer.

It’s a completely self-contained unit. Knox walks along the passenger side of the trailer and shows off another room toward the cab of the truck. Inside is a 300-gallon water tank, a 10-gallon acid wash tank (apple cider vinegar, he explains), a diesel generator and its 50-gallon fuel cell.

"When we come out to the ranch, the rancher doesn’t have to provide anything, he doesn’t have to have water, electricity," says Knox. "I have my own electricity, own power wash pump, refrigeration unit, hot water heater — and the diesel generator is sound-enclosed, so it’s real quiet."

Hopping down from the driver’s side of an International 9200 truck, Michael, a rancher from Alcalde dressed in jeans and a gray T-shirt, yells out: "That’s one fancy rig!"

Michael peppers Knox with questions as he tries to figure out if the program could work for him and his herd of 25 mother cows: "What have you guys thought about the waste?" (Knox favors composting it or working with a biodiesel producer in Colorado). "Have you figured out prices already?" (Knox is still comparison-shopping, then factoring in the cost of gasoline.) "Are you going to have a centralized place to store (the meat)?" (The development council is building a cut-and-wrap facility on its grounds and has ordered an enormous Polar King freezer.)

"Okaaaaay," says Michael. "That’s what I was worried about, that’s what’s going to make this ideal."

Another curious rancher, Erminio Martinez, is clearly impressed by the Matanza. His family has been ranching for generations — today, he runs cattle and sheep in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and near Arroyo Seco, N.M. — and it’s hard, he says, for rural ranchers to travel 60 to 100 miles to bring their animals to butcher, then to process and store the meat. "To have local access to the matanza," he says, "well, that’s not just good for the private individuals, it’s good for the community."

 

The author writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...