National Geographic : 2014 Nov
#futureoffood 115 Beef is big in Texas. Last year in the state, ten times as many calves were born, 3.85 million, as human babies. At the Big Texan in Amarillo—which offers free rides in a longhorn limo—you get your 72-ounce steak for free if you finish it in under an hour, along with the shrimp cocktail, the baked potato, the salad, and the roll. truck’s top deck, then another ten filled the lower deck. The truck shook. Dust poured from the slits in its sides. The driver shut the rolling door, climbed in the cab, and took off across the yard. Defoor and I followed in his pickup. In the pen that had been these animals’ last home, road graders were already scraping five months’ worth of manure off the hardpan. By the time we got to the front gate, the truck was disappearing toward Interstate 27 and the Tyson packing plant outside Amarillo. We raced after it. Behind us the sky was just starting to turn pink. “If you call a meal a third of a pound of lean beef,” Defoor said, “then one of those animals you saw getting on the truck will make 1,800 meals. That’s amazing. You’re looking at 60,000 meals on this truck ahead of us.” Cactus Feeders, which is headquartered in Amarillo and owned now by its employees, was co-founded by a cattleman from Nebraska named Paul Engler. In 1960, the story goes, Engler came to the area to buy cattle for a Ne- braska feedlot and realized the panhandle was Photographer Brian Finke is a Texas native; this is his first article for National Geographic. Robert Kunzig is the magazine’s senior environment editor.