For the first half of my life, I was squeamish about blood and guts. It was a source of embarrassment to me, growing up playing ice hockey, when the smallest sight of blood would topple me to the ice. But all changed when, at age 21, I butchered my first animal. The smell of it, while foreign at the time, was pleasant to me when I experienced it again, walking through Russia’s largest slaughterhouse, Miratorg, recently.
Bird's eye view from atop the water tower at Miratorg's feedlot in Bryansk, Russia. (Photo @comradecowboys) This company owns 310,000 beef cattle, raised on 51 ranches spread across a region the size of Maryland. The cattle are brought to this 40,000-head facility, where they reach finishing weight. After that, they're herded drown "The Green Mile," an alleyway leading to the a slaughter plant that's just visible on the horizon. In my latest for @natgeo and @the_fulbright_program, I explore how Miratorg has brought state-if-the-art cattle processing to beef-starved Russia. Part 1: http://bit.ly/1TIzj0c Part 2: http://bit.ly/1Uub719 #miratorg #feedlot #slaughterhouse #meatpacking #meat #beef #ranching #agriculture #animalwelfare #documentaryphotography #photojournalism #photosociety #travelphotography #westernphotography #landscapephotography #bryansk #russia #россия #fulbright #natgeo #futureoffood
We started at the back of the assembly line at Miratorg, where the meat is cut into parts, but as we reach the front, that smell disappears. It’s replaced by the odor of living cattle (which, as a cowboy, I still enjoy). One by one, a steer walks into a chute where a Miratorg employee centered a bolt-action stun gun on its forehead and fired. Here, the earthly being begins its transformation into burgers and steak. I walk past the chute and through a door to where a set of corrals and alleyways bring cattle from Miratorg’s feedlot, in the distance. The journey between the two, my translator tells me, was nicknamed “The Green Mile.” (Continued on National Geographic…)
Read Part One of this series: Inside a Russian Slaughterhouse, It’s a Far Cry From “The Jungle”
Ryan Bell is a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow traveling through Russia and Kazakhstan. He’s reporting about food topics for The Plate, and his travel adventures for Voices. You can also follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Storify.