New England Officials Seek to Expand Meat Processing

New England dairy farmers and cattle ranchers are looking at options for expanding their meat packing industry. Given the emphasis placed by officials in the Department of Agriculture on local production and consumption, some cattle farmers and dairy ranchers throughout New England have expressed an interest in pursuing local meat packing and investing in local slaughterhouses.

However, New England currently has about 28 slaughterhouses in the entire region. This compares to states like Wisconsin, which has over 200 slaughterhouses. Currently, New England farmers are forced to ship their cattle out of state, mostly to nearby Pennsylvania, which has a well developed meat packing industry. However, in order to cut down on production and transportation costs, many farmers would prefer a local option.

The difficulties in setting up local slaughterhouses are many. Primarily, it is difficult to compete with larger, more developed meat packing industries in other states, and many parts of New England have restrictive zoning laws that hinder the development of slaughterhouses. Vermont’s Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with other New England agricultural agencies, has issued a study to determine the viability of local meat packing plants.

In addition to lowering production costs, the creation of local slaughterhouses and meat packing plants would help further the USDA’s efforts at encouraging local agriculture. Ranging from encouraging Community Supported Agriculture programs to the USDA’s Know Your Farmer campaign, the federal government has encouraged the creation of ties between local producers and local consumers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer