Local meat producers have more options for their meat products
Farmers who raise and sell their meat locally have more control over their marketing decisions, and receive higher prices for their product than those selling to buyers outside their regions, says USDA.
Consumer demand for locally-grown foods and locally-raised meat, poultry and eggs has grown. After a decline of small farms and slaughter houses in the 1990s, the U.S. has seen a resurgence in small, locally-owned operations. According to Whole Foods Market, consumers are asking about locally-sourced meats and want to know if the animal was raised ethically, is antibiotic free and organically raised. Most are processed at the same large USDA approved factory slaughter houses where they separate the animals by time and space and used different sanitizing agents.
Michigan has 27 slaughter facilities that are listed as USDA inspected. This means that if a small local farmer is interested in selling their meat directly to the consumer, store or institution, their meat could accumulate a lot of miles from traveling to and from the slaughterhouse. There are a number of other meat processing facilities in Michigan that are “custom-exempt” but these are limited to the consumer bringing their own animal to them for butchering, such as the pig you bought at the county fair auction. You already owned the live animal prior to slaughter. This meat is labeled “not for sale” and is strictly for the owners own consumption. Michigan State University Extension has created additional resources if you are selling meat locally from your own farm.
Another rising trend spearheaded through the USDA’s Know your Farmer Know your Food program is the Mobile Slaughter Unit. The goal of this program is to help small farmers find USDA slaughter facilities near them. Several states report the successes of these small self-contained slaughter facilities that can travel from farm to farm and serve small farmers where larger plants are unaffordable. These Mobile Slaughter Units can be operated as a cooperative and are used for poultry and red meat. Currently there are few operating nationwide with increasing interest and acceptance. This may lower the cost of meat purchased through reduced travel and processing time.
For more information about community food systems and local foods contact Michigan State University Extension Community Food System educators who are working across Michigan to provide community food systems educational programming and assistance.