Missouri Photo Workshop – MPW.70

October 2, 2018

I recently had the honor of being selected to attend the prestigeous Missouri Photo Workshop. Thirty-nine photographers from 18 states and nine countries explored Mountain Grove, Mo., an Ozark town turned into a laboratory for improving research and visual story telling skills.  There I met Morgan, a young local woman who carefully preens her makeup and long blonde hair each morning before going to her job as a kill-in-the-field butcher.

Under the guidance of two mentors, Dennis Dimick and Mary Beth Meehan, they coached me through the pitch, formulation, daily feedback on my story, as well as the final edit.  It was lifetime of learning packed into a full week where I not only extended and expanded my skill set as a photographer, but also met and networked with the likes of the photography industry’s top photo editors and photographers from National Geographic, the Washington Post, Nature Conservancy, and more.

Hands On:  Morgan’s Life with Animals

24-year-old Morgan Branson has made a life in her hometown of Mountain Grove by owning and running a business unusual for a young woman: a mobile slaughtering and butchering service. By doing the killing herself, Morgan assures a humane practice for her clients, most of whom run small farms in the area, and go to her for the convenience of having the work done on their own property. Morgan’s passion for working with animals and animal products stretches into her other businesses: breeding dogs and making custom leather handbags.

Morgan Branson has owned “Brooke’s Butchery” since she bought the company in 2017. She travels within a 120-mile radius of her hometown of Mountian Grove to deliver her services.
Being a small business owner means that Morgan spends each morning checking her messages and managing her calendar of appointments. Clients contact her to schedule a butchering on their property, to buy a puppy from her breeding business, or to order a custom leather purse.
Morgan slaughters a cow on a famr outside Mountain Grove. “Dang, I got it right in the center of the head,” she says. Morgan believes that killing the animal instantly, rather than putting the animal through a lengthy dying process, is more human practice.
With the head removed, the animal’s body is turned onto its back in preparation for skinning.
Morgan found herself in the butchering industry unepectedly, when a family friend needed help at one of their meat processing facilities. She bought the business in 2017.
Morgan works with her business partner, Matthew Yoder, on a morning job.
Morgan and Matthew share all aspects of the process, with the most labor-intensive work being done while sinning the animals.
For a cow with an average weight between 800 and 1200 pounds, the butchering process takes about one hour.
Each carcass that Morgan prepares is delivered to a processing facility, where the meat is cut and packaged for the client.
At the meat processing facility, Morgan steadies the body of a cow that she had butchered just an hour before. The body will cool in the “drip room” for approximately two days, before being moved into a second cooler, and then processed into the different cuts of meat.
Morgan loves animals, especially her dog Bailey, who greets her after a long day at work.
Once on a path to become a veterinarian, Morgan has decorated her home with reminders of her intimate connection to animals.

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