Where’s the Beef?

Gaps in regional food systems cause many small meat and poultry producers to lack ready access to meat processing plants, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


| June 4, 2010



USDA looks at small meat and poultry producers' access to meat processing facilities.

USDA looks at small meat and poultry producers' access to meat processing facilities.

iStockphoto.com/Jill Chen

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a preliminary study revealing existing gaps in the regional food systems regarding the availability of slaughter facilities to small meat and poultry producers. The study by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is a first attempt to identify areas in the United States where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility.

"To support consumer demand for locally produced agricultural products, meat producers need to have access to local or regional slaughter facilities, and the study we are releasing shows that there is often a shortage of facilities needed to bring food to market," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. "The 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative is working to address various shortcomings in the food supply chain on behalf of our country's producers and consumers. If there is a stronger, closer link between production and consumption, there is often an economic benefit."

The data creates a county-by-county view of the continental United States, indicating the concentration of small farms raising cattle, hogs and pigs, and chicken, and also noting the location of nearby state slaughter facilities and small and very small federal slaughter establishments. The USDA defines "small slaughter establishments" as those having between 10 and 499 employees, and "very small slaughter establishments" as having fewer than 10 employees or less than $2.5 million in annual sales. For the purpose of the study, small livestock and poultry producers are those who have annual sales of $250,000 or less.

The presentation "Slaughter Availability to Small Livestock and Poultry Producers – Maps" is posted on the USDA website. These findings were released as part of USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, which emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides increases and flexibility to USDA programs in an effort to revitalize rural economies through the promotion of local food systems. Aimed at strengthening the connection between farmers and consumers, the initiative also increases local market access for farmers, and expands access to healthy food for all Americans.

Inquiries can be made to the Small Plant Help-Desk by toll-free telephone or by e-mail. The Help-Desk is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. To speak to a staff specialist during this time, call 877-374-7435. Customers may also contact the help-desk by e-mail at InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.

For information on loan and grant programs that can be used to support local food initiatives, including initiatives involving new or existing meat and poultry slaughter facilities, contact USDA Rural Development 800-670-6553. For information on RD programs on the Internet, go to the website, or visit the nearest USDA Rural Development Office.





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