Monday, November 30, 2009

Local processing for poultry

Tom Laskawy features my Friedman School colleague Jennifer Hashley in his fascinating Grist article about an innovative poultry processing operation sponsored by Whole Foods.
Massachusetts poultry farmer Jennifer Hashley has a problem. From the moment she started raising pastured chickens outside Concord, Mass. in 2002, there was, as she put it “nowhere to go to get them processed.” While she had the option of slaughtering her chickens in her own backyard, Hashley knew that selling her chickens would be easier if she used a licensed slaughterhouse. Nor is she alone in her troubles. Despite growing demand for local, pasture-raised chickens, small poultry producers throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even New York can’t or won’t expand for lack of processing capacity

It isn’t only small producers who are feeling the pinch—a widespread lack of processing infrastructure appropriate for small farmers has caused supply chain problems for the big retailers as well. Whole Foods—the world’s largest natural-foods supermarket—wants to aggressively expand its local meat sourcing, according to its head meat buyer, Theo Weening. But it faces the same limitation as Hashley. Most regions of the country have “lots of agriculture but nowhere to process,” Weening told me, adding that the phenomenon is most acute in the northeast.

Whole Foods wants to change all that. In a move that has national implications, the retail giant has confirmed to Grist that it is working with the USDA as well as state authorities to establish a fleet of top-of-the-line “mobile slaughterhouses” for chicken. Starting with a single unit serving Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Hudson Valley, N.Y. area, Whole Foods hopes to offer small farmers an affordable way to process chickens as well as to vastly increase the amount of locally-sourced chicken it sells. If successful, this program could be expanded to any region of the country with similar infrastructure shortages.
See an earlier post about Hashley's work.


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J. Duffy said...

You mentioned that Ms. Hashley could process the birds in her backyard if she wanted. My family has a farm and farm stand in Ashby Ma, Laurel Ridge Farm, and we would like to process pastured organic chickens and process them onsite. We have heard from the state that we cannot do this but from the feds that we can. Do you have any further information on small farm poultry processing? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to email me

Jennifer said...

Hi J. Duffy,
The reason that I can process poultry on our farm is that we have a Massachusetts Department of Public Health state slaughter license to use the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit and we received local Board of Health approval from the Town of Concord. You can also become a licensed user of the MPPU by following the application instructions on the New Entry website at:
New Entry offer a MPPU training program to help farmers through the regulatory process and to become trained in MPPU operations. Our next training is on January 28th, 2010 (see details on our website). I'd be happy to talk to you more about it - feel free to send me an email:
Good luck! Jennifer