I have never seen a dead cow before. Or rather, I have never seen a cow carcass before. But in the last few days, I have seen more carcasses than I can count, throughout the process from slaughter to butchering to packaging for sale. The macabre process is far more than just an intriguing spectacle … or a vegan’s nightmare. In reality, this process makes up the livelihood of dozens of ranchers in the region, who form a major chunk of the local economy and in turn a major part of Taos’ culture. Taken in a broader context, these animals form a way of life; one could call them the heartbeat of the town.

My encounter with this issue came about because of the Taos County Economic Development Center’s essential role in the process. TCEDC offers a mobile slaughter unit called the Mobile Matanza (named after a popular New Mexico tradition), which offers FDA-approved and -inspected slaughter, butcher, and packaging services to farmers at subsidized rates. That FDA approval, required for any meat processing or sales, cannot be found anywhere else in Northern New Mexico. As one farmer explained, without the Mobile Matanza, he and all the other ranchers in Taos would be unable to legally sell their meat unless they took their animals all the way up to the nearest slaughterhouse – in Colorado!

It quickly became clear to me that the Mobile Matanza was TCEDC’s innovative solution to a major need in their community. By enabling ranchers, the Mobile Matanza supports a ranching economy while advancing TCEDC’s goals of maintaining Taos’ land-based culture even in the face of modern requirements. Even in its very name, the Mobile Matanza endorses the traditional culture of this area. It’s a neat idea that breeds many new ideas in my mind for my own community!