Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where is the Bottleneck?

Whether you call it a slaughterhouse, abattoir, or processing facility the truth is that it seems it is getting more and more difficult to find one close by that meets the standards of the farmer and the customer. In thirty mile radius we have four or five facilities, but only two are state inspected (meaning they can process meat to sell by the cut within state lines) and none are federally inspected (these facilities can process meat to sell nationwide). If you would like to process chickens for sale then you have to go even further. We've had a few problems so far, but we have also had some processing facilities that were willing to work with us.

But, it seems that I don't have it as bad as some people do in other parts of the country. I came across this article from The New York Times titled, "Push to Eat Local Food is Hampered by Shortage". In the article the expose some of the difficulties farmers and consumers alike are facing to get the food that they want. It seems that the ability for local meats production is there on the farmers end and the demand is there on the consumers end, but the problem is getting the products processed and into the hands of the consumers.

This quote from the article sums up the problem the best I think, "According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined from 1,211 in 1992 to 809 in 2008, while the number of small farmers has increased by 108,000 in the past five years." I don't know if that is counting all types of facilities (exempt, state, and federal), but regardless it shows just how few processors there are out there right now for small-scale farmers.

I think there are many reasons that we are losing these facilities, but a couple that stuck out in the article for me were the lack of skilled employees and the regulations. Agricultural Secretary Vilsack was quoted in the article saying, "It’s pretty clear there needs to be attention paid to this..." I hope that attention is paid soon (I kind of doubt it will be) and that actual help will be given to those that currently run processing facilities and those that want to open them (help includes things like making the regulations bearable).


Stephen B. said...

Here in Massachusetts, we were down to only one government-inspected, certified plant for large animals after the second to last one suffered a major fire. But then an amazing thing happened. The state got together with a bunch of folks and arranged special financing for the plant to be rebuilt, and voila, we're back to two slaughterhouses for small farmers.

It's still tight here, as both plants are well booked as I understand it. But it also shows a new-found understanding of the importance of such plants too, especially in this somewhat urban state.

We still don't have a close by processor for poultry, however.

DJK said...

Joel Salatin talks a lot about this in his book "Everything I want to do is Illegal".

Even the title points to the fact that it's regulation that's the main problem....and regulation borne of back room deals and other nonsense that has little to do with science and/or food safety.

Here are his books... Get them CHEAP at

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