From MICHAEL LAYBOURN
After reading Michael Pollan’s books and researching the state of the meat industry (which is controlled by big ag corporations), I find I don’t like commercially processed meats. I was curious how best to eat free range chickens, eggs, grass fed cattle and bison and locally raised pork. In addition, I am interested in pushing for a strong local economy.
The first thought is food and how to support the farmers and ranchers locally. This is necessary if we want to build a true local economy. So I’ve been talking a lot to local cattle raisers, pig and chicken ranchers, the bison people out highway 20 and finding out this: That it is nearly impossible to find humanely raised and processed meat that has been processed locally, unless it has been done by a mobile butcher setup.
The food part of a local economy, to be strong, has to serve all the people locally, so any business that can help the ranchers and farmers raise food and provide jobs with an environmentally sound approach should be welcome.
It stands to reason that if we had a local meat processing plant in Mendocino county, then thousands of miles driven in trucks could be eliminated. The last I heard was that the bison has to be shipped out of state to be packaged. Other meats travel hundreds of miles to be processed and shipped back to Mendocino County.
Mendocino County has a chance to build on its organic reputation and non-GMO-modified foods. Meat should be included to build in the specialty market, as well as feeding ourselves. This market is growing and will continue to grow.
Here are some examples happening across the nation:
Small processing plants have dwindled in number, but the demand for their services is on the upswing. By Lois Caliri_ 981-3117. Rebecca Hubbard and her husband, Mike, show up every Saturday to sell their “natural” meat products at the Roanoke Farmers Market. Their Garden Mountain Farm in scenic Burke’s Garden offers pasture-raised, grass-finished, hormone- and antibiotic-free poultry and eggs, lamb, pork and beef. The Hubbards and the other 30 or so growers in Virginia who sell meat and poultry from grass-fed animals say their products provide a healthy alternative to commercially produced, factory farmed meat and poultry products. But it is not as simple as growing more grass-fed livestock and putting more cuts of natural meat in grocery stores. A bottleneck suppressing possible growth of this emerging industry involves the scarcity of small meat-processing plants.
Cannon Falls, Minn: Lorentz Meats, just south of Minneapolis, in the small town of Cannon Falls is being held up as the best example of a “new age” small-scale slaughter and processing plant in the United States. Built new in 2001, the $2 million plant kills bison one day a week, hogs one day and cattle three days for a host of individual direct marketers and several niche market branded meat companies. It meets all organic, USDA and European Union requirements and has 45 employees.
Consumers want local meat, humanely raised and processed. There are ranchers in our county raising animals in this respectful way, using grass feeding and organic methods. There is a rapidly growing market for healthy food, and healthy meat in particular, in the San Francisco Bay area. The ranchers of the Mendocino County raise some of the best meat in the country. I’ve tasted a lot of it.
As seen above, a new generation of meat processing plants are being developed. The plants are a fraction of the size of factory facilities. The pace is slower, and the emphasis is on quality. There are no feedlots, less pollution, and little if any smell. Wastes are tightly controlled, water conserved and extensively recycled. Workers are generally well paid, have good benefits, and taught a variety of skills, so they can rotate in their jobs. A premium is placed on humane treatment of the animals at every phase.
With rising fuel prices, competition for grains from the ethanol industry, the meat facility of the future needs to be small, local, sustainable, humane to both animals and workers. The meat facility of the future will increasingly emphasize grass fed and organic meat….
The latest study reported in the Ukiah Daily Journal once again affirms that a small meat processing plant as described above or in the study by the Economic Development & Financing Corporation would be a boon not only to the economy, but an intelligent step towards building that strong local economy that doesn’t depend on the state or feds to survive. This would also be another step towards establishing Mendocino County as a sustainable food producer. As KC Meadows said, “But also among the best reasons (for the plant to be a reality) is walking the talk from this county, where growing food locally, keeping food healthy and production environmentally sound and showing the rest of the world how it can be done, has been preached from many private and public forums.”
Well said. Good jobs and local meat sounds tasty to me.
See also Winter Husbandry – Sharon Astyk→