Design and Pilot a State Approved Mobile Slaughter Trailer for Halal Custom Slaughter

Final Report for FNC05-584

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $17,655.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Larry co-owns and operates a 142 acre farm, Shepherd Song Farms, LLC. With his partner he has 400 ewes and does and direct markets approximately 500 lambs and kids per year. They have been actively involved in the sheep industry for 15 years and direct markets lamb and kid to culturally diverse families. Their flock was started on leased land using managed grazing philosophy. When the flock reached 300 breeding animals they invested in a former cow dairy farm. Sustainable practices such as intensive grazing, pasture lambing and minimal confinement of animals have been practiced for the past 15 years. They founded the Browse and Grass Farmers Association that currently has 14 producer members with a common interest of marketing to culturally diverse families.

The objective of this project is to direct market traditionally slaughtered halal goat to the growing number of Somali refugee families in WI. To do this effectively inexpensive halal slaughter must be available for both producers and Muslim families.

Background: The goat market is especially popular with the growing ethnic population in the Midwest and is home to the largest Somali population in the United States with 85% of that population reported to be strict Muslim requiring halal meat. The only consistent source of halal goat meat for these families is frozen and imported from Australia and New Zealand. Somali families prefer to choose their goat meat live and eat it fresh (never frozen), but frozen, imported goat is what is available (University WI Somali Survey, 2005).

There are a number of barriers limiting the marketing of fresh, locally grown kids to Somali families in Wisconsin.
1. It is nearly impossible, even with advance scheduling, to have livestock slaughtered or processed from October through January due to the Fall deer hunting season. This period also coincides with the strongest demand for goat meat from ethnic families.
2. Wisconsin, as with many states, does not allow on-farm slaughter by either the farmer or the new owner of the animal. A state licensed facility must be used. This has resulted in goats or sheep leaving the farm in the back seat of a vehicle or tied up in the trunk to be slaughtered in on roadsides, garages, basements or shower stalls. Producers can build such a facility and have in state licensed for slaughter but the cost is high and difficult to recover.
3. A survey of 68 WI state inspected slaughter facilities revealed that 25% (17) would not accept goat at any time. 96% (65) knew nothing about halal slaughter procedures though many were interested (Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection Added Value Grant Survey, 2004).
4. Even if the utilization of current slaughter facilities were logistically possible the survey noted the cost ranged between $40-$90 a head. This is especially high for refugee families and is generally as high as the cost of the live animal.
5. The majority of Somali Muslim families in Wisconsin follow their religious beliefs precisely and the meat they eat needs to be halal. The halal slaughter process requires a live kill (not stunned) and supervision of the process by the individual or a Muslim religious person. Families prefer to pick their kid themselves and to supervise the process to be certain the criteria is met especially for the religious holidays.
Rural WI producers have goats but limited ability to provide halal slaughtered meat. The consumer has limited ability to handle, slaughter and process a live animal from the farm as Somali families, with few exceptions, live in apartments and urban areas.

The advantages of a mobile slaughter unit:
•Animals are not subjected to the stresses of transportation and unfamiliar places.
•Transportation costs are saved in rural areas where there are no available slaughter facilities
•Costs for the customer are decreased and income from the process stays local
•Ideal for culturally and religiously diverse families desiring control over the process and real-time availability of their meat
•Consumers can choose their own animal, supervise the whole process and participate as desired

Unit specifications include:
•Heated ceramic tile floor
•Walls & ceiling USDA, FDA approved materials
•Grey water collection tank
•Reinforced ceiling
•4’ x 8’ chill area capacity for 10 – 12 goats
•Well lit with water proof lighting
•Heated and cooled for worker comfort
•Stainless sink and work tables
•Kill done completely inside closed facility
•Upright slaughter restraint (no hanging of live animal)

Process: The process involved research, design and construction of a mobile slaughter unit (MSU) and an upright animal restraint to facilitate a humane kill. The primary goal was to build a unit that would be approved for custom slaughter at a reasonable cost that producers could duplicate for their own use or share between farms. The unit was also built to specifications that could meet USDA inspection standards if producers had a need to market to local restaurants and other commercial outlets or to ship across state borders.

Research and Design Phase: During the research and design phase we evaluated the larger units already available and approved by the USDA for animal slaughter in Washington, South Dakota and New Mexico. The Stockman GrassFarmer published two articles: Island graziers pioneer portable USDA-approved abattoir that could have national impact (July 2003) and Portable abattoir is a key to Lakota Tribe’s reputation for tender meat (Sweden designed and built unit). A Swedish report, Mobile Slaughter of Cattle and pigs (JTI-rapport no. 339) describes the design and function of a two trailer unit that weighs 35 tons and cannot leave firm ground or pavement. All of these units are large and pulled by a semi. Since our unit is designed to handle goats, sheep and perhaps veal the size was reduced to a 8’ x 24’ x 8’ high truck van body mounted on a trailer pulled by a standard ¾ ton farm truck.

We consulted with a number of professionals before applying for SARE funds. One meeting took place in Barron, WI with Terry Burkhardt, Director (now retired) of WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP); WI State regional inspector, David Kemp; Osman Musse, WI Somali Community Corporation; and Robert Bossany, Dunn County Economic Development. In this initial meeting preference from the State was for a standard type facility instead of a mobile facility. After discussing the higher costs required to set up and maintain a permanent slaughter facility verbal support from the State was received to proceed with the mobile unit. Burkhardt, Director of DATCP provided us with a support letter for this SARE proposal. We recommend other producers take this initial step to make certain the State officials know what is being done, why and have opportunities to make recommendations and suggestions.

During the design and research phase of the project we continued to arrange for meetings with professionals in the meat inspection industry. This included Andrew Lorenz and James Casetta, DVM regional inspectors for the USDA FSIS division; Colleen M. O’Keefe, DVM, Division Manager Food Safety and Animal Protection, IL Department of Agriculture, Kevin Elfering, Director (now retired) Dairy and Food Inspection Division, MN Department of Agriculture. We were also able to meet with Jack Gleason, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary, USDA, Washington, DC who was formerly involved with the approval of the Washington State slaughter facility. We are currently working with Alan Kremer, DVM, Supervisor, Madison, WI District Office, USDA FSIS. As our intent is to provide halal options to our local community we attended the 8th and 9th International Halal Food Conferences held in Chicago, IL and organized by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America to increase our knowledge of the halal standards, requirement and labeling.

Construction Phase: Once the preliminary design was completed a used 8’ x 24’ truck van body was purchased. This was mounted on a trailer remanufactured from a mobile home frame. The roll up door on the van body was removed and replaced with an insulated sliding door was constructed with the exterior surface of food safe plastic and a stainless steel frame.

The ceiling was reinforced and all interior surfaces were covered with a food safe plastic material. The front of the van is partitioned and insulated to create a 4’ x 8’ carcass cooler. A side door was constructed to provide an exit from the cooler without entering the slaughter area. This reduces the risk of contamination and was recommended during the design review process. All food contact surfaces, hand washing and double sinks are stainless steel. Electric heat was installed in the floor to allow for easy clean up in the winter without icing. Ceramic tile was the most cost effective surface since concrete would be too heavy in a portable facility and other materials were either too slippery or difficult to clean. Since the square footage of the floor is relatively small tile remnants were purchased at a close out sale. A 2” strip of tile was installed at a 45 degree angle at the floor-wall junction to allow easy cleaning. The tile was extended an additional 10” above this point for durability and cleaning. An incinerating toilet has been purchased and will be set up in a separate unit to be transported if required by the location.

An upright slaughter restraint was designed and constructed in collaboration with Dr. Joe Regenstein, Food Science, Cornell University to encourage humane animal handling. Dr. Joe Regenstein is involved with Dr. Temple Grandin on the design of animal restraints that meet kosher and halal slaughter requirements. Working from an early prototype a restraint was designed and piloted. It was discovered that when the sheep or goat were adequately supported and raised with its feet off the ground that even flighty animals calm and their flight zone is significantly reduced. More research needs to be done on this aspect of the handling system. A brochure, poster and website were designed. The website: illustrates the restraint and unit and information can be downloaded.

The MSU and restraint were piloted five times with Noor Arte, religious authority from Barron, WI and Dr Khan, religious authority from the Chicago area and a member of a Muslim food cooperative. The meat was provided as a gift in exchange for their time, expertise and support and to stay within State regulations as the unit is not yet licensed.

Additional Items:
•During a walk though, Alan Kremer, DVM, Supervisor, Madison, WI District Office, USDA FSIS recommended increased ventilation to prevent moisture condensation. This will be accomplished by a ceiling air conditioner and fan.
•An active insect control system was also suggested and will be resolved by using an ultra violet light fly trap.
•To increase capacity an animal holding area will be designed and constructed so that it that can be transported with the unit when required by location.
•An HACCP plan for USDA or State inspected meat still needs to be developed and approved.

Costs: The MSU team contributed over $28,000 of time and materials to this project bringing the total cost of this model to approximately $46,000. We believe additional units could be reasonably built by producers for under $25,000 as much of our added costs involved research and design time. Major ongoing costs of using the unit will require insurance, disposal of waste and unit sanitation. The MSU has a reasonable payback assuming consumers are charged for using the unit and it allows producers to increase direct market sales to diverse families instead of relying totally on the commodity market.

Collaborators: We had the active support, encouragement and interest of many producers, Muslim community members and animal science professionals. The main collaborators included:

Mike Flanigan, Producer and owner of Northwoods Locker, Clayton, WI. Mike provided facility layout, slaughter and processing support during our trials. He is in the process of upgrading his facility to provide halal custom slaughter at his facility.

The Browse and Grass Farmer Association (BGF): is an organization founded by 14 independent sheep and goat producers. The producer group markets to families, restaurants, natural food markets and distributors. Their mission statement includes marketing to diverse ethnic consumers that includes families that require halal certified foods. BGF has involved Somalis in developing the halal-certification processes used by this project. The producer group has assisted in locating materials for this project such as cooler insulation, van body, and members participated in the trials along with Noor Arte, Osman Musse, Dr. Khan and Dr. Regenstein.

Joe Regenstein, PhD: Professor of Food Science at Cornell University and a Visiting Professor of Food Science at the University of WI in Madison. He is the head of the Cornell Kosher Food Initiative and a technical advisor to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (the largest Muslim certification agency in North America). He has a special interest in working with farmers on humane and sustainable agriculture projects. He donated his time and expertise concerning humane upright slaughter, and the design and construction of a safe, humane slaughter restraint and provided farm show booth and workshop presentation support. He also helped with the trials, wrote and edited material for the website and provided instruction on halal live animal slaughter and certification.

Mohsin Khan, MD. Khan is a community educator on the value of humanely raised and slaughtered halal meats and is involved with a food cooperative that secures meat and poultry from local farms in Illinois for halal slaughter. The farmers from which we acquire our products raise their livestock in a humane and ecologically sound manner. The food cooperative provides meats that are halal and zabiha and goes one step further by providing a product that is tayyib (wholesome).

Noor Arte. Owner of Safari Cuisine, Barron, WI. This newly established restaurant (January 2007) serves locally grown halal goat and lamb from the Browse and Grass Farmer Association. Arte has extensive experience working with Hmong, Mexican and Somali individuals. As a refugee Resettlement Director at Catholic Charities Arte helped do feasibility studies, write business plans, find resources and attended a variety of meetings with agencies and employers. He settled refugees from overseas to the local county, helped them receive public assistance, health screenings and other services. He taught school in Mogadishu, Somali before coming to the U.S. He has lived in Barron since 2000. He continues to volunteer in his community with refugees and on the Human Services County Board, the WI Somali Community Board of Directors, and the City Diversity Council. Arte hosted meetings at the Safari for this project, provide community advocacy and participate with the trials.

Abdi Abdilahi is a multicultural specialist for a non-profit in Minneapolis, MN. Abdi founded a grocery store in New Orleans in 1985. In 1988 he moved to Texas and purchased a butcher shop and convenience store. In 1999 he moved to Minneapolis and was employed as a job counselor. During this project he worked as a multicultural specialist for refugees and immigrants with disabilities advising and assisting on employment concerns and business start-ups. He is fluent in Somali, Amharic, Arabic, Italian and Swahili. Abdi provided verbal and written translation services, input on methods and contacts with the Somali community.

Otto Wiegand, PhD. WI State Agriculture Agent specializes in ruminant nutrition. Wiegand lived in East Africa for 7 years among both Muslims and non-Muslims as an agricultural development and research consultant, the International Livestock Centre for Africa in Ethiopia and the African Development Bank. He is proficient in Spanish and Swahili. Wiegand provided information on animal handing and opportunities to share results with other producers.

Imam Osman Musse: Somali representative from the Barron, WI community. During year 1 of the project he provided supervision of the halal process and community contacts in Barron.
Nasra Xashi: President WI Somali Corporation, Barron, WI. The non-profit provides social services, English language classes and daily living skills for the ever-increasing Somali refugees arriving in Barron. Nasra has provided community advocacy, guidance and encouragement throughout the project.

Presentations or Interviews:

Date, Topic, Location, Number

2/3/07, Marketing Goat Meat
GrassWorks, Inc , 2007 WI Grazing Conf,

GrassWorks, Stevens Point, WI, 53

2/15/07, Marketing Goat Meat
Focus on Goats, Conference. Department Agriculture Trade Consumer Safety Conference, Madison, WI, 300 +

3/8/07, Meat Goat Marketing , Newspaper interview: Agri-View, Section B, Don Johnson, unknown

3/23/07, World without Borders WPR interview , Radio interview with Shireen Pishdadi from the Chicago Muslim community and TAQWA food cooperative, unknown

5/12/07, Somali Rural Residents MN and WI, Rural Somali Meeting hosted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN , 22

5/26/07, Multi-species grazing of goats and parasite control, Organized by Living off the Land Sustainable Grazing Group,
Dodgeville, WI, 12

7/12/07, Goat Discovery Day
[email protected] , Workshop to determine needs of WI goat producers. Organized by Jeanne Meier, DATCP Menomonie, WI, 15

9/6/07, Field Day
Meat Goats, Organized by Otto Weigand, UW-EX Field Day: Robin Trott Dairy Goat Farm, 47

9/12-14/07, Marketing Meat Goats
2 sessions, Risk Management Strategies for Beginning and Small Farmers Conference organized by USDA, Growing Power, SARE. Milwaukee, WI, 44 and 52

10/31-9/3/07, Farm Forum Booth and Producer Report, 15th National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference. Sponsored by Small Farm Today and NC SARE, Columbia, Missouri, 72

11/13/07, NCR-SARE Administrative Council meeting, Des Moines, Iowa, 38
TOTAL: 655 (approx)

We really enjoy having Farmer/Rancher project results posted on the website. Many of the projects have provided us with some new methods and ideas for our own farm. We just noticed video clips of how to write the SARE grant are included on the website. That would have been very helpful for us when we wrote our proposals. We struggled to understand some of the questions. It will also be helpful to refer producers to when they request help in writing a grant. We have attempted to support other producers but it is not easy as often they want the writing done for them. We think it would be interesting to have more opportunities for producers to get together and talk to each other about their projects. We seem to learn the most from our peers.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.