When Local Isn’t Local

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...

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Our friend Deborah Madison once remarked to us that fruits and vegetables were “pretty well handled” and that meat and its processing was the “next big hurdle” towards a good system of production and distribution.

And oh, how right she is. The dearth of certified slaughterhouses is very much an impediment to doing business, as any small-scale animal producer would attest.

While animals are raised on local ranches and farms, where they are eventually (hopefully humanely) processed is more likely to be many miles away. It gets worse, sometimes animals are sent completely out of state for processing.

Author Beth Hoffman writes on NPR’s food blog, The Salt, how small-scale cattle producers are taking matters of processing into their own hands.

“We don’t want to be the next Tyson or Cargill, processing large numbers of animals for national distribution,” says Willard Wolf, President of the Cattle Producers of Washington.

“We are not interested in competing on that level. The whole idea is to have quality control and humane processing for local cattle, hogs, sheep and goats that provide consumers in the state with [the] locally produced products they are demanding. Having a producer-owned plant will help keep dollars, ranchers and farmers in our communities.”

And that thinking is taking hold in other parts of the country as well. Places like rural Sullivan County, New York and Orange County, Vermont have begun to develop plans for future facilities.

Ms. Hoffman’s article continues:

Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont is pioneering what he calls a “nano-scale” animal processing, an on-farm slaughterhouse and butchering facility built for a fraction of the cost.

“When our butcher announced his retirement in 2008 after two other regional facilities burned down, we knew we had to build our own slaughterhouse on-farm,” says Jeffries. “We were warned that it was a huge task to take on, that the costs were high. But we are on target for completing the first part of the building for only $150,000, and are making all the plans available online to anyone else who wants to use them.”

It never fails to amaze us that when a problem such as this is presented, clever food folks jump in and find a solution. Well done.

Click here to read the article in full

Does this problem exist in your area? How are the small-scale producers dealing with it?

Photo Credit: Craig McCord