Mobile Slaughterhouses: The Next Step in the Local Food Movement?

Aug 17, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Workers and cattle in a slaughterhouse. (Photo: Temple Grandin/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the green pastures and family farms depicted on meat packaging in grocery store aisles, most beef in the U.S. actually comes from cows that are slaughtered in enormous facilities.

Slaughter is a conveyor belt procedure designed to be as time- and cost-efficient as possible.

But as history has shown, with speed and cheapness come compromises, which lead to E. coli outbreaks, inhumane treatment, and outrageous food miles that  the average burger patty travels cross-country to reach the consumer's plate.

Kim Snyder, whose farm sits in Bonfield, Illinois, just east of Kankakee, thinks she has a solution: a mobile slaughterhouse.

Taking a cue from the taco truck trend, the mobile slaughterhouse flatbed would travel to consumers, instead of the other way around. Rather than ship meat cross-country, farmers could have their animals slaughtered at their own barns by a mobile slaughterhouse, then turn around and sell the meat to neighbors or farmers markets.

A cow is restrained for stunning just prior to slaughter. (Photo: Temple Grandin/Wikimedia Commons)

"I think every farmer like myself will see value in it. It will be so much easier if they can have the butcher come to them," Snyder told the Chicago Tribune. "It's good for people too. They're more connected with their food, more interested in what they're putting in their mouth. This gets the farm and the processor closer to their customers."

The flatbed trucks would not even come close to processing the numbers of animals pushed through factory slaughterhouses, but that could be for the better. Smaller numbers would likely mean improved food safety.

Washington state boasted the first federally inspected mobile slaughterhouse. Currently, about 20 poultry trucks and six cattle trucks are operating around the country. Snyder hopes to bring the trend to her state of Illinois.

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