Farmers seek more animal processing closer to home

Image courtesy of Cris Coffin

Eden Pond Farm in Bernardston raises meat chickens, but because of the lack of facilities in Massachusetts, drives their birds to Rhode Island for processing, requiring either a full day away from the farm, or two round trips of 200 miles. North Plain Farm in Great Barrington raises pork and beef, and drives several hours to a slaughterhouse in New York State twice a month. The added costs of having to take animals so far away for processing makes it harder for farms to sell local meat at competitive prices. And regulatory requirements makes it challenging for new facilities to be brought on line. Take the situation in Westport, where the nonprofit Southeast Massachusetts Livestock Association is looking to build a processing facility, but needs to raise $4.5 million to pay for the infrastructure required by regulators.

Creative solutions have demonstrated the potential for growth in meat and poultry production in Massachusetts. To help farmers raise more chickens on Martha’s Vineyard, Island Grown Initiative developed and licensed a mobile poultry processing unit. In just a few years, production on the island went from 500 birds to more than 10,000, and several jobs were created in operating the facility.

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