Meat Processing for Small Farms

♪ (music) ♪ Jessica: My name is Jessica Smith with This Old Farm in Colfax Indiana or outside of Colfax Indiana If anybody would have ever asked me if I would do meat processing at any point in time in the last ten years I would have laughed I started at a vegetarian, uh meat processing was not something I thought was in my future However, we had a small farm operation and I wanted to see that farm operation grow Uh it had problems with processing and as we got involved in researching the processing industry throughout America realized that there were real challenges in that processing industry Mark: What’s important to know about meat processing for farmers, I think in the situation if you’re just getting into this, is it’s important to understand the process, what it goes through I think it’s important to go to your meat processor, somebody you’re going to have, that you’re going to use for your facilities To talk to them and understand what they have to go through, what they really desire for a finished animal, what they would like to have Uh and then go to your consumer and find out what they’d like to have So it’s understanding the whole process that goes on It’s easy for me just to raise on animal out here and ship it off somewhere, and say you ought to take it, but I’m not quite sure what you really want Jolena: So in the media recently the agriculture industry and food production especially has um had some pretty poor media um that will sometimes really concern the consumer so that they don’t understand what’s going on or they may think that products from a larger processor might not be safe So, this has caused people to really step back and look more locally for their products Looking to shop at say farmers markets or smaller processors that they know and they can trust and build a relationship with I would like to emphasize that large processors or small processors as long as their doing their job well that food is going to be safe I really trust all of the food that’s in our system no matter what size processor it’s coming from But the people that are looking for that local product, The small processor can really serve a unique role there and provide that niche market that some of our consumers are looking for So, here in the state of Indiana we have a few different options as far as processing and retailing meat products You can be USDA inspected, which is what most of our large processors are going to be That means you can sell your product anywhere in the United States and often it will qualify for exports as well A lot of our smaller processors will choose to work at the state level with state inspection What this means is you have uh Indiana board of animal health inspector And it’s a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more flexible as far as schedules when the inspectors can come to your facility Still the same quality of safety and the same level of inspection, but a little bit more flexibility The challenge with that though is that then you are restricted to selling your products only within the state of Indiana Another option is to do custom exempt What this means is that the processor does not actually sell meat to the public They provide a service for harvesting an animal and processing it So, in that case the owner would bring their animal in and the processor would charge them for this service And, then that person would take their own products back home In this case there’s not an inspection that is taking place and so the owner of the animal is assuming all of the safety on themselves Jessica: We are now a federally um inspected processing facility and we just went under federal inspection last year Before that we were a state inspected processing facility So, we choose federal inspection, or knew that we were going to go under federal inspection to be able to broaden our reach out of the state of Indiana The USDA definition of local is within 400 miles. So we still believe in that local food product, but local is Chicago, local is Kentucky and we can broaden our reach and thus improve the sustainability of our own processing facility to be able to process and then move that meat across state lines It’s been an interesting experience working all the way through all the different challenges of not only small business, but also of processing and helping farmers That’s where my passion is, is supporting agriculture Processing to me is a need for the agriculture to grow in the state of Indiana Jolena: Some of the challenges we see, especially with our smaller processors, is that the regulations with inspections and food safety are changing pretty rapidly and sometimes it’s difficult for them to keep up with all of those changes and That should be the role not only of their inspection agency, but of people like Purdue Extension to make sure we are communicating those changes and helping them facilitate that Mark: Part of the part of the mission of Purdue Cooperative Extension Service is to put people together in some ways And that is we can help out individuals find areas that they can purchase animals and get animals at or tell them who in the area they might want to look into as well as the fact that we will talk to the farmers, Uh the producers and tell them areas they might want to put their their emphasis in marketing into One of the things that we have in Extension to help people out in reference to information is the small farms website The Purdue’s Small Farms Team is a group of us educators and specialists that are on campus and we get together on a regular basis and plan programs for people that are small farms It’s very difficult to put a caption on what a small farm is It can go anywhere from less than an acre Up to a couple hundred acres really as you look at it So, what the small farms team does is provide programming that is needed for those people to capture that audience and to give them some educational information that Purdue University can supply them to help their operations and hopefully help them make money in the process Jessica: Really our farm is just one small picture of what we hope to see which is livestock back out on the ground The consolidation of American food system has happened across the nation and we understand that side of life as well, however we want to maintain and grow the ability for folks to go ahead and farm and for the family farm to succeed and That again comes back to having processing options Our farm is one of those and we do want to see it, of course, success in our own farm operation but really we want to see others return to the farm and know that it’s a viable option ♪ (music) ♪

One thought on “Meat Processing for Small Farms

  1. I fond this a very interesting video. We specialise in the manufacture of portable meat production units that I believe would fit very well in to your industry. Our website is which shows the wide range of units that we can offer. We are a UK based company but we are exporting to Australia and after seeing this video I think our range of units could offer many of your supply chain farmers a simple solution for on-farm processing. please contact us through our website for more details.

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