Progress report for ONC21-084
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront many challenges the agriculture industry regularly faces. One of the most prominent issues was the marked decline in the ability to process meat caused by the partial or complete shutdown of many large meat processing facilities. Consumers faced a shortage of meat in the grocery stores, and producers dealt with overcrowded facilities when they were required to hold over market-ready livestock. While large packing facilities shutdown, small meat processors were called to work overtime to help local consumers put meat on their tables. Many of these processors were understaffed and overworked prior to the pandemic, and the fast shift to a demand for local meat exacerbated those issues. This pandemic has also caused a shift in consumer preferences, and many more are interested in purchasing directly from local producers and processors. However, there are not enough small processors to meet this need. There is a strong desire by producers to take more control of their marketing options, but few possess the knowledge to operate a meat processing facility. This proposal will aid producers in the upper Midwest navigate the requirements of establishing and operating small processing facilities.
- Familiarize partners with regulations and requirements of the meat industry
- Aid partners with regulatory decisions based on their business goals
- Provide technical assistance in processing techniques and skills necessary to operate a small meat processing facility
- Educate partners on proper sanitizing and food safety practices
- Assist partners in the development of realistic production goals
Educational & Outreach Activities
As of December 31, 2021, we conducted one educational activity. A webinar was held in November, 2021 that outlined the categories of inspection (custom exempt, state, federal, cooperative interstate shipment). The webinar was presented by Dr. Tammy Anderson of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board and Dr. Christina Bakker of South Dakota State University. A total of 15 farmers/ranchers logged in to the webinar. This webinar fulfilled the first and second objectives of our proposal.
We scheduled a set of industry tours for the end of January 2022, where we would take the partners to visit a South Dakota state inspected meat processing facility and a USDA inspected facility. In addition speakers were lined up to discuss experiences with planning to build a processing facility, obtaining USDA grants for meat processing, information from the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation about their services, the business model of a multi-state meat processing and distribution plant, and how to determine equipment needs for small processing facilities. These tours and presentations will fulfill objectives 3, 4, and 5 of our proposal.
An additional webinar is planned for March 2022. One speaker is the owner of a USDA inspected mobile meat processing unit and the other represents a firm that assists those working to build their own meat processing facilities. This webinar will fulfill objectives 2, 3, 4, and 5.