Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New resources on local meat slaughter

In a series of blog posts for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Friedman School graduate student Barbara Patterson has been reporting on several aspects of slaughter, processing, and market development for local meat production and sale.

One update described USDA/ERS reporting on the role of business commitments:
Earlier this month, the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report titled “Local Meat and Poultry Processing: The Importance of Business Commitments for Long-Term Viability”.  This report follows a related report, published last year by ERS, that evaluated the availability of slaughter and processing facilities for local meat production and the impact on market supply of local meat.

The authors of the new report, Lauren Gwin, Arion Thiboumery, and Richard Stillman, reported that consumer demand for local meat and poultry has risen, yet there are constraints on production both due to limited processing infrastructure and, at the same time, insufficient business for processors necessary for profitability.  They report, through seven case studies of local and regional processors, that best practices center around long-term commitments by processors to provide consistent and high quality services, and by farmers that commit to a steady level of meat for processing.
A second post drew on Patterson's interview with Ali Berlow, author of The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse.
Ali Berlow, founder of Island Grown Initiative, an NSAC member group, recently published The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse, a manual for building a humane, mobile chicken-processing unit.  Using her experience establishing a mobile poultry slaughterhouse on Martha’s Vineyard, Berlow comprehensively describes how to adapt her methods to other communities based on their unique needs to ensure an economically feasible production for poultry slaughter.

The total number of small-scale livestock slaughter facilities has declined over the past 10 years, despite tremendous growth in total sales of foods direct-to-consumer.  Mobile slaughter trailers can help serve poultry growers who lack access to nearby or appropriately-sized slaughterhouses, as well as helping processors maintain a stable volume of business, necessary for economic success.

Berlow described transparency and community as the keys to a successful slaughterhouse.  “When you engage the community, it helps them to know where their food is coming from and the difficulties and challenges that come with that.”  One such difficulty, complying with local, state, and federal regulations, can only be helped by more community engagement and outreach to local and state regulators, according to Berlow.

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