When you head into Dodge City, Kansas, on Route 50 from the east, one of the first things you come to is the overlook. It’s not a scenic overlook, unless the view–and the smell–of a cattle feedlot and processing is appealing to you. I bet it’s scenic to the people who appreciate “the smell of money.” That’s the phrase used by many ranchers and managers of confined animal factory operations (CAFO). Beef processing is a lucrative business. Luckily, on our visit to Dodge City, Bill and I were up wind of the smell at the overlook.
I think Dodge City is proud of its heritage in cattle production. Excel Corporation, one of the world’s largest beef-processing facilities is adjacent to the feedlot and processes about 6,000 head of cattle a day, six days a week. Nearby National Beef, a processing plant cited in a 2011 product recall for E. coli contamination, processes 4,000 head daily. One of the signs at the overlook says, “Combined, annually these two plants annually market enough beef to feed 16 million people for one year. Kansas ranks first in the United States commercial cattle production, processing over 8 million head annually. ” That’s amazing. But it makes me ask, what’s wrong with our country that we have to eat so much beef?
I wanted to see the feedlots first-hand. So on a recent trip to the Plains, Bill and I photographed several, beginning in Dodge City and heading west to Colorado. To me, CAFOs are the smell of inhumanity. Not just the inhumane treatment of cows lying around in their excrement, but also the conditions employees endure in the processing plants.
Here’s a video I took of just one feedlot in southwest Kansas. It’s 1 1/2 minutes long taken from our car going 30 m.p.h. Notice the drainage areas, which can have negative effects on the environment.
And here are more photos from southwest Kansas.
Wouldn’t you rather have beef from a happy cow, like these from Grassfields, raised on grass in open space?