Infrastructure to meet the growing demand for local meat
Massachusetts has only two USDA-inspected slaughterhouses, and they often are booked months—sometimes even a full year—in advance. Demand for local meat and poultry is growing, but without sufficient processing capacity, local farmers can’t expand their production to meet this demand.
Enter The Livestock Institute. The Westport-based nonprofit was formed several years ago to address the prohibitive costs and quality issues farmers faced in transporting animals to distant processing plants. “The further a farmer must transport an animal to be slaughtered, the higher the stress level of the animal, which may affect the overall quality of the final product. That is not good for the animal, the farmer, or the consumer,” explains Gena Mavuli, the organization’s first executive director.
Through grants from foundations and the Massachusetts Food Venture Program, donations from individuals, and loans, the Institute was able to raise the funds to build a slaughterhouse, called Meatworks, in southeastern Massachusetts. Meatworks will open in June 2018 and be able to process 20 cattle or the equivalent a day, five days a week. It will process cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats.
“Meatworks will provide an important service for local farmers and consumers and help to make southern New England a more local food system,” says Gena. Several farmers are planning to expand their herds once the slaughter- house opens. To build on the organization’s mission to support livestock agriculture as a viable option in the region, the Institute also offers an annual conference and educational seminars on topics including best practices in animal husbandry, grazing and forage growth, and business-plan development.
Once the facility is open, consumers will be able to purchase fresh meat at the on-site store. The Institute will also list the member farmers on its website so that interested consumers can buy directly from those farms. Gena wants to make sure that local meat continues to be part of the conversation about strengthening the local food system. After all, she says, “Ninety-seven percent of the U.S. population is omnivorous, and we need to make local meat an increasingly available option.”
Processing - Action 4.1.9: Invest in food processing facilities including poultry, beef, and fish processing, small batch dairy, and co-packing, as local and regional markets demands their development.