|Huge Interest in Details of Mobile Slaughter
By JUDY MALONE
ASI Director of Industry Information
(November 1, 2010) “This is an idea whose time has come,” stated John Stulp, commissioner of agriculture for the state of Colorado, about the idea of incorporating regional mobile slaughter units in rural areas. Stulp was part of the mobile slaughter seminar held at Colorado State University’s (CSU) Taylor Conference Center on Oct. 7.
Nearly 150 interested individuals from 10 states ranging from Colorado and Wyoming to Hawaii and Kentucky attended the informational session held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The session was designed to assess the local interest, to explain regulations regarding mobile units and to inform attendees on how to apply for federal funding. Two mobile units, one from Nebraska and one from New Mexico, were on display.
The long-held philosophy of transporting livestock to the slaughter facility was first put to the test when processors began erecting processing plants in larger livestock production areas. The inspiration of the mobile slaughter unit takes that same philosophy and adjusts it to fit the needs of the smaller rural producer by bringing the harvesting unit to the farm or ranch. This approach is also very well matched to the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative headed by USDA, which is designed to better connect consumers with local producers.
A mobile slaughter unit is just that. It is a self-contained slaughter facility that travels from one location to another and is designed to slaughter livestock and prepare the carcass for processing. It provides regional slaughter services to smaller producers who would otherwise not have access to federally inspected slaughter and processing facilities. The first fully licensed unit to begin processing is located in Washington State and went on-line in 2002 providing regional service to island producers.
Each mobile unit is unique dependent upon if it is a new build or if it is a refurbished trailer, the market being served, the amount of start-up funds available, the number of partners participating in the unit and the process in place for the cut and wrap portion of the process.
According to Jim Bennage, chairman of the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, there are numerous benefits to using a mobile slaughter unit, especially in a state like his that has no federally inspected slaughter facilities. Reduced transportation costs to get the animal to slaughter, diminished animal stress, added traceability, specialty marketing like natural or grass fed and the ability to tap into local markets are just some of the recognized advantages.
In contrast, there are also challenges associated with running a mobile slaughter unit. Many different ownership models have been successful (family owned, co-op, non-profit, partnership, LLC) but must be matched to each specific situation. Licensing must be kept current through as many as nine different regulatory agencies. Scheduling the unit and the personnel, hiring quality butchers and facilitating the cut and wrap process can also prove to be challenging.
A majority of the mobile units deliver the carcasses to a local federally inspected butcher facility at the end of the day to have the meat cut and wrapped. A small number of the mobile unit businesses have their own cut and wrap facilities where they maintain complete control of the product from beginning to end.
Mobile slaughter facilities are held accountable to the same federal regulations that dictate the day-to-day operational procedures for a brick and mortar location. The compliance regulations, although adjusted to meet the needs of a mobile unit, must still meet all food safety regulations.
“It is great to see so much local interest in this type of project,” commented Steve LeValley, CSU sheep and goat specialist and meeting host. “It is always good to have additional options available to get federally inspected sheep slaughtered and to have this product available at local markets.”
A number of resources were compiled for the Colorado meeting. This information, as well as details about the various mobile units in operation, is available at www.coloradoagriculture.com/ mobileslaughter.
Interesting Facts about Mobile Slaughter Units
• The average cost of a red-meat unit can run from $150,000-$300,000.
• The daily volume for a unit is dependent upon the storage limitations
of the cooler as well as the processing speed of the butcher.
• In an eight-hour day, depending on the unit, 5-10 cattle, 10-25 pigs
or 20-40 sheep can be processed.
• It takes 25-50 gallons of water to slaughter a single animal.
• Mobile units typically stay within a 50-100 mile radius of the home