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
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • VERDE RIVER PROJECTS TECHNICIAN
    The Verde River Projects Technician (VRPT) provides technical assistance to Verde River Program staff in implementation of the Verde River Streamflow Monitoring Protocol. This consist...
  • 8 FIELD PROJECT SPECIALISTS (POSITION FORMERLY TITLED TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISOR)
    Are you passionate about environmental conservation and connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with outdoor leadership...
  • SOUTHWEST REWILDING ADVOCATE
    WildEarth Guardians is seeking a full-time advocate in our Wild Places Program to advance a new paradigm of forest management and protection based on the...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....