... would anyone travel to Kansas and visit a mobile slaughter unit? Journalists take up a lot of controversial topics connected to food and farming: animal welfare issues, organic versus conventional farming, food safety and food prices. But what about farmer incomes? Not many people realize that a sizable number of farmers live below or just above the poverty line. Some of the people who produce our food have to rely on food banks. Really? The reasons for poverty in the farming community are manifold, from low farm-gate prices to supermarket power.

What I wanted to look at were off-farm infrastructure issues. Many farmers produce excellent crops, meat, milk or eggs, but how do they get it to us, the consumers?

As is so often the case, things are bigger in the US, the problems as well as the solutions. Western Kansas is a dry, windy, sparsely populated region, the nearest big city to the west is Denver, a three-hour drive away, Kansas City to the east is about twice as far. Western Kansas is also known for its excellent wheat growing conditions and for raising cattle. Which should also mean that there are enough slaughter facilities nearby, but that’s not the case. In the US the trend to close down small, local slaughterhouses in favour of fewer and fewer very big slaughter- and processing facilities may have started earlier than here in the UK, but the result is similar: Having to transport cattle over long distances is an animal welfare issue and it adds costs. In some cases the costs can add up to the point where the business of a whole farm becomes unviable. Looking into this story I came across Mike Callicrate and the mobile slaughter units he uses. And luckily he agreed to a farm visit. His ranch, as Americans call it, is just outside of St. Francis in Cheyenne County, in the north-western most part of Kansas. We, my picture-taking husband, Martin, and I visited on a beautiful autumn day at the end of October 2018.

To read the full article about this fascinating project, click here to download.