Conorado Feeders- Dalhart- Texas_900Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas, 2013

When Manchester-based photographer Mishka Henner first stumbled upon these seemingly abstract images on Google Earth, he had no idea what he was seeing; with research, the artist realized that these tentacle-like scars on the earth were created by the meat industry. The harrowing satellite-sourced images that constitute The Feedlots convey the sheer scale of intensive farming in America, where the need to maximize profit all too often takes precedence over concerns for sustainability and animal welfare.

Mishka dedicated over a year to researching the meat industry and the design and function of its feed yards. With the intention of making his findings more accessible, the artist painstakingly stitched together hundreds of high-resolution screenshots from satellite imaging software which is available to the general public. Only clearly visible 100 miles above the ground, these photographs reveal the startling influence of these superstructures from a hitherto unseen perspective. Coronado Feeders alone is not nearly the biggest feedlot in the US, and yet it has a capacity of 60,000 cattle.

What we’re seeing in this confronting satellite imagery is a system designed for maximizing the meat yield of a living animal in the minimum time frame possible; cattle urine and excrement are mixed with chemicals intended to break them down and sent from pens into run-off channels, ending in ever-growing pools of waste. Different combinations of chemicals result in different toxic hues. In the past it took up to nine years for a cow to reach its full mature weight — only at this point was it deemed ready to be sent to the slaughterhouse. “Today, after decades of research perfecting the structures and processes of feed yards, this time scale has been reduced to 18 months” explains the artist. The introduction of growth hormones and antibiotics into the cattles’ diet has also helped speed up the process.

Though under scrutiny from numerous environmental and welfare organizations, feedlots have flourished as a result of the exceptional lobbying skills of the American meat industry. Legally restricting photographic access to agricultural sites in several states has also protected this big business from the negative repercussions of revealing what goes on behind the scenes.

The Fieldlots remind us of society’s tacit acquiescence to the transition from traditional agriculture towards intensive farming. Mishka communicates his aversion to the meat industry in its current state: “When I think of these pictures, I don’t just see gigantic farms, I see an attitude toward life and death that exists throughout contemporary culture. These images reflect a blueprint and a horror that lie at the heart of the way we live”.


Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas, 2012


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All images © Mishka Henner

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