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Local Meats Processing: Successes and Innovations

Innovations and lessons learned from successful small scale, local meat processors around the country.


Local meat and poultry can’t get to market without a processor, but processors are pulled in many directions: Farmers would like more processing options, the kind of processing needed depends on the market the regulations are complex regulations, and even with premium-priced meats, the profit margins are slim.

So how can local meat processing survive ... and even thrive? Lauren Gwin and Arion Thiboumery, co-founders and co-coordinators of the national Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, share the results of their research on this topic, featuring innovations and lessons learned from successful processors around the country.

We also hear from several regional support efforts to improve access to local processing: Kathleen Harris, of the Northeast Livestock Processing Service Company; Casey McKissick, of NC Choices and the Carolina Meat Conference; and Chelsea Bardot Lewis, of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Vermont Meat Processing Task Force.



Presentation Slides

Questions and Answers

Q: how can I find a USDA inspected butcher/processer for poultry and rabbits near me? And after butchered can I transport back to the farm to sell later?

A: We have some state-specific processor listings you can search: go to and click on “find a processor” -- but for poultry/rabbit, you may need to call your state ag department for suggestions. They should have a list, b.c these processors are typically state licensed

A: also, whether you can sell them depends on the processor's inspection status; check your state's regs, in our state poultry regs report. Go to and click on the poultry regs link

Q: does this include the cost of a building?

A: Yep, that list of expenses has line items for interest and depreciation that factor in a building.

Q: Are there resources available for setting up a value added processing facility (no slaughter)?  Do the numbers for a very small plant presented on an earlier slide correlate at all?

A: See the business planning guide on the NMPAN website. It addresses this very issue.

Q: The manual is already available?

A: No, we are just at the beginning of the project, which is another 2 years. But the customer service manual, developed for Wells Jenkins Wells, IS available as a model for other plants: and click on “customer manual”

A: I do expect we'll be able to roll out specific resources like this over the course of the project.

Q: On the screen, there was frame which showed “A guide to designing a small red meat facility”, is that in the report, if not, where can we get it?

A: You can find it on our website: and click on “new to meat processing” and scroll to the plant design section to download it.

Q: What type of study was White Oak Pastures involved in?  Who was in charge of that study?

A: By “study” I refer to the research report that we have discussed on this webinar. I am the lead author, so you could say I am in charge.

Q: by new things, do you mean different cuts than had been the convention? And has the industry been trying to shift to meet those needs? It seems food trends are changing regarding cuts, more flat iron steaks being requested for example.

A: By new things, I mean mostly things that require equipment purchases, for example: rollstock packaging, chub film packaging, drying /curing rooms, a bowl chopper to make emulsified products like hotdogs, just plain expanding the plant to do more when you a really only “full” on a seasonal basis.

Q: what about processors that do both poultry and  beef/hogs

A: I'm not sure I'm totally clear on your question. Doing more things can sometimes be a good strategy to keep busy throughout the year (and that's why many small plants in take on things like catering). Usually this is an indication of not being busy doing the plant's primarily work.

Q: it was unclear. To what degree does it make sense (or not) to include poultry as a product for a new USDA facility? Any key issues to be aware of? 

A:  I think it's hard to justify building the infrastructure to do both if you can't keep both busy 5 days a week. If you can, like White Oak Pastures does in our study, then it can make sense.


Presenter Bios

Kathleen Harris

Kathleen HarrisKathleen Harris has over 30 years of experience in the livestock industry.  A graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Animal Production, Kathleen worked for 7 years as a licensed livestock grader and marketing specialist for New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.  She and her family then developed a successful farm business raising lamb and pork and direct marketing products at farmer's markets and to high end restaurants.  She currently serves as Processing and Marketing Coordinator for the Northeast Livestock Processing Service Company while continuing to farm with her family.

Casey McKissick

Casey McKissickCasey is the Director of NC Choices and the Carolina Meat Institute. He and his family own and operate Foothills Family Farms. NC Choices is a Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ (CEFS) initiative that advances local and niche meat supply chains in North Carolina by providing networking opportunities, educational programming, and technical assistance for producers, meat processors, buyers and food professionals. CEFS is a partnership of NC State University, NC A&T State University and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 


Lauren Gwin

Lauren GwinLauren Gwin is research and extension faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Oregon State University, Assistant Director of the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems, and Co-coordinator of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network. She works with Oregon’s small meat processors and the livestock producers and local/niche markets that depend on them, focusing on supply chain logistics and legal/regulatory issues. She has a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley. 


Chelsea Bardot Lewis

Chelsea BardoChelsea Bardot Lewis is Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. She coordinates the Vermont Meat Processing working group and the New England Beef-to-Institution Initiative. She has been working on partnership opportunities between meat producers and processors in Vermont and New England. She has an M.S. in Agriculture Food and Environment from Tufts.


Arion Thiboumery 

Arion Thiboumery

Arion Thiboumery is Vice President of Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls, MN, a medium-small sized meat processor specializing in natural and organic meats. He also co-coordinates the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, a cooperative extension network working to support small meat processors ( Arion received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University.


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