While the demand for local meat continues to rise, finding a place to process it remains a major challenge. There simply aren’t enough licensed slaughtering facilities to meet the growing need. The Portsmouth Press Herald reports on the state of poultry processing in Maine:
Something to squawk about
When Steve Hoad and his daughter Rose began producing as many as 2,000 to 2,500 chickens and turkeys on their Windsor farm, they thought it might be a good investment to build their own slaughtering facility to process their birds for market.
Under state regulations, they would be able to sell the birds at their farm, through community-supported agriculture, or CSA, programs, and wholesale to restaurants and stores.
But after doing a lot of research and crunching some numbers, the Hoads concluded that the project didn’t make sense financially.
“Yeah, we could build a garage and slap something in there, but that’s really not doing it right,” Steve Hoad said. “We estimated it would take $39,000 to $55,000 to build a facility that would be reasonable and we could keep clean. Then you would also have the issue of labor.”
The Hoads ended up going to a state-inspected facility in Monmouth. When that closed earlier this year, they started taking their birds to Weston’s in West Gardiner, which is now the only poultry processing facility in the state that has on-site state inspectors.
It’s a more expensive way to bring their poultry to market, and for producers who live more than 50 miles away, it’s impractical — and more stressful for the birds. It doesn’t help that there’s a shortage of inspectors, although state regulators say they do their best to accommodate farmers’ schedules.
“People Down East are having a real hard time,” Hoad said, “because unless they are doing (processing on their farm), they have to haul all the way down to West Gardiner.” Read more…