USDA Set to Allow Unlimited Poultry Processing

US - A Livingston County (New Jersey) firm expects to become one of the state’s few large-scale poultry processors once it gets federal permission to expand.
calendar icon 2 April 2014
clock icon 4 minute read

Munsell’s Poultry Processing, in Howell Township, soon will be able to process unlimited volumes of poultry under a US Department of Agriculture inspection agreement, owner Rachel Munsell said, according to

Until now, Munsell’s had been considered a small enterprise, which limited it to 20,000 birds that could be processed each year.

Under the new certification, Munsell’s should begin processing unlimited amounts of poultry by late July.

"We’ll be bringing business from out of state now, hopefully. That’s our goal," said Rachel Munsell, who runs the company with her husband, Matt. "We’re actually bringing business into this state."

The Munsell operation is part of Michigan’s strong agriculture industry, which grew from a $91 billion industry in 2010 to a $96 billion last year, according to state figures.

Gov. Rick Snyder highlighted the state’s agriculture industry in his State of the State speech in January, saying "ag is on a roll" as Michigan experienced 16 per cent growth in agricultural exports from the state to other countries over the prior year.

The Munsells’ business had about $150,000 in sales last year. Its federal inspection grant means poultry processed at the facility will carry a USDA sticker before it goes to market.

Most poultry raised in Michigan is processed out of state, then returned to Michigan’s store shelves.

Munsell’s Poultry Processing’s customers often raise 50-100 birds per year and either sell to family and friends once the chickens are processed or keep the finished product for themselves. Other customers raise up to 3,000 birds per year and sell to farmers’ markets and restaurants after their birds are processed.

The extensive approval process for the federal certification required training on humane handling of animals, creation of a "food defense plan" and several alterations to the Munsell’s facility in Howell Township.

In addition to Rachel and Matt Munsell, the company employs 12 and has doubled its operation since opening in June 2011.

The Munsells hire additional workers to handle demand during the summer and fall.

Other local farmers are finding new ways to increase their revenues beyond straight sales.

Michigan’s farms in recent years have enjoyed increasing commodity prices for their products, though those prices fluctuate. Alternative operations, such as corn mazes, have allowed some farmers to expand their income through maze fees and, eventually, the sale of corn, said Jeanne Sparks, vice president of the Livingston County Farm Bureau.

At least 98 per cent of Livingston County farms are family-owned and operated, she said.

The most prevalent crops in Livingston County are corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, though cattle, poultry and dairy farms also have a presence in the county, Sparks said. Farms are thousands of acres or as little as 1 acre to grow and sell herbs, she said.

The Van Gilder Farm in Howell Township has benefited from higher commodity pricing in recent years for its soybean and corn crops.

The family grows 4,200 acres of corn, 2,200 acres of soybeans and as many as 800 acres of wheat at its farm off Grand River Avenue, west of downtown Howell.

The local farm was used as an example of a successful Michigan farming operation in September when a Taiwanese agricultural delegation visited the farm.

The delegation was en route to Lansing, where it was expected to sign a letter of intent to do business with Michigan farmers.

Fowlerville Farm Services, a crop-fertilizer business also owned by the Van Gilder family, also has seen increased business, manager Rob Hulett said.

"Business has definitely grown. Farmers, with the increased commodity pricing, they’ve been able to spend more money," Mr Hulett said. "Farmers have had a good run the past few years with commodity pricing."

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