Monday, June 4, 2012

Small slaughterhouses aim to keep "local meat" local, sustain rural economies

Beth Hoffman reported on NPR's "the Salt" blog today about efforts to keep local meat truly local by bringing slaughterhouses back to rural America.
[T]he dirty little secret is, while [the] steak those 'locavores' just bought at the farmers' market may have come from a cow that is grazed in nearby pastures, it probably wasn't processed anywhere nearby.  In fact, many local meat products are sent to slaughterhouses hundreds of miles away, across state lines. 
So some small-scale cattle producers are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to keep money, jobs and something "local" on dinner plates. 
In Washington state for example, most grass-fed beef raised on the eastern plains journeys some 400 to 600 miles to Oregon or Idaho for processing before arriving back in Seattle.  This means not only a larger carbon footprint for each hamburger served, but processing animals out of state also sucks money out of the state's rural communities and makes locally produced beef more expensive.   
Forty years ago, seven slaughterhouses served eastern Oregon; today none do.  Currently, four corporations slaughter 80% of cattle in the United States.
So the Cattle Producers of Washington (CpoW), like several other innovative groups around the country, are breaking ground this summer on a new slaughterhouse in Odessa (Lincoln County [population 10,570]) that will cater exclusively to small eastern Washington ranches.  
Willard Wolf, President of CpoW, describes Odessa as a town that doesn't even have a stop light and which has lost 15% of its population in the last five years.  In a place that small, the slaughterhouse will bring "significant employment in transporting, distributing and raising locally raised meat."

Across the country, Sullivan County, New York, population 77,547, wants a new processing facility because it will help to retain the county's agrarian feel.  
"The rural nature of the county is a priority for us," says Jennifer Brylinksi, the Executive Director of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, the organization who helped the county secure funding for the future facility in Liberty.  "We need the agricultural land here near New York City, and agriculture promotes tourism int his area.  We want to see the farm land kept as farmland."  
Sullivan County is 90 miles northwest of New York City.

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