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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Future Projects: a mobile processing unit for pastured poultry producers

Why would a non-profit organization that is fighting to reduce animal cruelty be involved in setting up a system to slaughter and process animals? Well, Temple Grandin is often asked “How can you care about animals when you design slaughter plants?” Her reply is that “some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.” She argues that “the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”

If we are going to eat meat, and I surely am, then we need to understand the process by which that meat ends up on our plate. Unfortunately most consumers just turn a blind eye to meat production. I made a commitment to only eat ethically raised meat for the entire year of 2013. I learned a great deal about how available these products are; the short answer is "not very". 

We want to make ethically raised meat more available. A great example is pastured poultry.  Not only is it a more humane way to raise the birds, but it's also better for the environment, produces a more nutritious product, uses less fossil fuels, and puts a higher percentage of the profits into local economies. Joel Salatin claims that pastured poultry is the best enterprise for new farmers. Clearly, we need to promote pastured poultry. 

One of the biggest issues with the pastured poultry industry is the lack of processors. My nearest processor is 3 hours away in another state and it isn't Animal Welfare Approved. You could process yourself under the exemption, but that could never be Animal Welfare Approved and would cost a great deal to buy all the equipment that would be used only a few days a year. A mobile processing unit solves those problems. It could get the AWA seal of approval and disburse the costs of ownership over a number of processors. Hopefully this could make pastured poultry a more attractive enterprise and increase the number of producers in the target area.

This initial project would target southeast North Carolina. We already have a great marketing program called Down East Connect. Local farmers advertise their meat and produce on the website and take sold items to a central drop-off point on collection days. Down East Connect then sorts the items and takes them to several drop off sites in nearby metro areas. Down East Connect handles all the payments and the farmers get a monthly check. Buyers get bags of fresh produce, meat, eggs, jam, etc. from a variety of local farms.

Another advantage of NC is a result of the tobacco buyout program. When the government stopped the price support for tobacco, they gave payouts to farmers and setup several programs to help transition them to alternative agricultural opportunities. The Golden Leaf Foundation provides grants to government entities and non-profits that help provide these alternatives. Pastured poultry could be an option if we make processing easy and cost effective.

This all sounds great if you live in our initial target area of southeast North Carolina. What about the rest of the country? We will be documenting the process to make this as easy as possible to replicate as we can.
If you still can't get locally raised pastured poultry, we will provide links to online retailers. Of course, you could just raise them yourself!

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