State proposes mobile trucks to do on-farm slaughtering

VERMONT - With few options for slaughtering their chickens, the Clarks rely on a butcher to come to their Hyde Park farm. That means they can sell the meat only off the farm, because it's not inspected.
calendar icon 19 February 2007
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A state plan to bring the slaughterhouse and an inspector to the farm would help tremendously, she said.

"We have local restaurants wanting our poultry or turkey or whatever, and we can't sell it to them," said Judy Clark of Applecheek Farm.

The state Agency of Agriculture has proposed buying a pair of mobile food-processing trucks that would travel from farm to farm, processing poultry, vegetables and fruit crops, and possibly hogs, goats and sheep. The service would be a boon to farmers who live far from Vermont's few processing plants.

"We're hoping we could do it for this growing season," said Anson Tebbetts, deputy secretary of the agency.

The Clarks are not the only ones calling for it.

Only two Vermont slaughterhouses offer state-inspected processing to poultry farmers. In July, a fire leveled Fresh Farms Beef, in Rutland -- the state's largest slaughterhouse -- and left just eight slaughterhouses for cows, hogs and sheep, including one that will reopen in Grand Isle next week.

"There isn't anywhere near the capacity to handle the farmers," said Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm in Enosburg Falls, who raises grass-fed beef and lamb.

Gov. Jim Douglas' budget includes $100,000 for a poultry processing truck that might be retrofitted to process hogs and sheep. A second truck would process and freeze fruit and vegetable crops, Tebbetts said.

The goal is to alleviate demand on slaughterhouses that are booked months in advance.

"The days are long gone when you pick up the phone and say, 'I've got three beef I want to do Wednesday, and it's Tuesday,'" said John Wing of Over the Hill Farm slaughterhouse in Benson.

He tries to get those customers in within two months, but says it's hard in the fall when demand is high.

That's a challenge for small-scale farmers who have to make plans months in advance or turn to uninspected slaughtering when an animal becomes sick or injured.

"I have to book too far ahead; I have to truck too far; then I have to go back and pick it up, and so it's a lot of distance, a lot of driving," Flack said.

"It's not like standing in a queue for a bus in London. When your animals are ready, you need a place to go to."

Vermont Quality Meats Cooperative in North Clarendon, which markets lamb, veal, pork and poultry to New York City and Boston restaurants, drives its livestock to New York to be slaughtered now that Fresh Farms Beef isn't available and a Massachusetts slaughterhouse closed.

Source: Burlington Free Press

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