Photos: Steer slaughter at Callicrate Ranch -- and why Mike Callicrate has a beef with just about everyone

Callicrate1.jpg
All photos by Lori Midson.

Earlier this week, on Monday, I spent the afternoon in Kansas -- specifically St. Francis, Kansas, a small, sleepy town just a few miles east of the Kansas/Colorado border, population a mere 1,200.

Cattle far, far outweigh humans in St. Francis -- there are thousands and thousands of them -- and on Monday, I, along with several chefs from Linger, Root Down and Fuel Cafe, experienced what most people never have, and likely never will: We witnessed the slaughter of a steer, a beautiful, majestic Black Angus beast that suffered a single shot -- a bolt -- between the eyes before he slumped to the ground with a dull thud. The knocker was quick and precise.

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Callicrate, the cattle ranch and slaughterhouse where we all herded -- and which is owned by a fiercely opinionated, radically passionate man by the name of Mike Callicrate -- exposes sloping hills pelted with short, lush, green grass, and it's small in comparison to most industrialized farms.The lackadaisical cows and steers -- hormone- and antibiotic-free Black Angus and Wagyu -- graze on grains, hay and grass, and they're slaughtered, singularly, on an outdoor kill floor, often in front of witnesses -- in our case, twenty. Photos are allowed, even encouraged. It's an unusually humane, transparent business practice.

Most industrialized feedlots are completely cut off from the public -- and certainly from journalists -- while packers with dehumanizing jobs that I can't even begin to fathom, slaughter, often brutally, upwards of 400 head of cattle each hour. That, too, is a number that I have a very difficult time comprehending.

But this 9,000-acre ranch stretched across winding turns of dusty dirt road? A quick kill, just one every 45 minutes, on site, at the farm. They're slaughtered and skinned by stoic men and women with very fast, precise fingers and unfaltering intensity. The cattle -- Callicrate has a head of around 2,500 -- don't travel hundreds of miles in livestock Semis, through blizzards or blistering heat, to wait out their fate. Instead, Callicrate has its own mobile trailer; the cattle are never transported on trucks. Still...under a brilliant blue sky, the mood was somber and gray.

Even now, I'm still struggling to make peace with the death...with watching the heavy chains wrapped around the steer's legs while his sleek, clean hide shimmered in the blaze of the sun and his tail still flicked from side to side; of looking upwards to the tractor above, where his body was suspended in air as he bled, a flowing river of blood staining the concrete red after his aorta was sliced with a sharp knife. There is no pleasure -- none -- in watching an animal die, especially at our expense.



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13 comments
chefswartz
chefswartz

yep, thats what butchering an animal is like. too bad your dad never taught you the facts of life as a child, maybe you would be over it by now. there is no good way to feed a planet of whiny spoiled bitches. vegan or not.

tera.g
tera.g

Thank you for this story Lori. I really wish you had taken the chance to mention that Callicrate's distributor, Ranch Foods Direct, has a permanent spot at Denver's year-around,  indoor farmer's market: Denver Urban Homesteading on Santa Fe and 2nd. It's the only place I buy my meat now.


spmarx
spmarx

I finished off leftover Mother's Day brisket while I read the article...I built my own drum smoker this spring and thought it was cute to paint a stylized butcher's diagram of a pig on the side of it.  (I am proud to say my smoker kicks ass).  But I admit, it's getting harder for me to justify the consumption.  And not in a pious, moralizing way.  As I grow into equal parts cynic and softie in my middle age, I just don't want to be a hypocrite.

"I realize what these animals are doing for us, and we have a contract to honor them." - What a fantastic quote that summarizes how much respect and thought I at least want to give the choice.  This was a great, heads up, article and I really appreciate it. 

GFTW
GFTW

Reminds me of what happened to Jenn after her Cocktails article.

RedMeat
RedMeat

Thank you thank you thank you for having the guts to show em! Indeed it is important to know where your meal comes from!

sundari93
sundari93

Thank you for posting this, Lori.

helloandgoodbye
helloandgoodbye

This is one of the best stories I've ever read on the Cafe Society blog. Excellent, honest writing with photos that really tell the story of what occurs when an animal dies for us. Great job in every way. Well done.

bhoffmeyer
bhoffmeyer

So glad you wrote this, great stuff!



bflentjept
bflentjept

Great story, Lori. Glad you could make it.

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