For small-scale farms in New York to continue to remain a strong part of our rural economy, they must be able to diversify. Naturally grown grass based agricultural product demand is increasing but production is limited due to lack of processing facilities within the region.
The availability of a mobile poultry processing unit will provide the facilities necessary for growth of meat bird production in the region. On-farm processing allows producers to retain a large percentage of the consumer food dollar. The mobile processing unit will expand opportunities for direct marketing and value added products fresh from farmer to consumer.
• Host educational workshops to expand producer’s knowledge and enhance quality of end product.
• Host farm tours and processing days to allow for hands-on learn and farmer-to-farmer interaction.
• Address lack of access to affordable processing facilities thereby enhancing economic return to producers.
• Assemble a mobile processing unit to be utilized by local producers for on farm processing of poultry.
• Expand direct marketing potential and value added benefits to farmers.
To address the lack of processing facilities, the cooperating group assembled a portable demonstration lab for processing poultry. The lab was utilized in educational programs in 2003 and will be available for producers to use on their farm in 2004.
The number of request for using the processing unit by new farmers will be used to measure expand interest in poultry production. Number of birds processed and cost received per bird sold will be recorded to show growth of the industry and impact on farm income. Figures will be collected from cooperating farmers as well as new participants in the program. Resulting numbers will be utilized to identify the ability of farmers to meet growing costumer demand.
The completion of the processing unit did not impact the production in the 2003 season as it was not available until fall. It will however have an impact both in number of producers and total number of birds in 2004. In 2003, 2165 meat birds were produced by eleven farmers. These same farmers anticipate raising 4285 birds. An additional 5 farmers have expressed interest in utilizing processing unit. In addition, twelve farmers raised 715 layers.
The workshop series will be offered in March of 2004, six weeks earlier than the 2003 program. This change is a result of feedback from perspective attendees. Additionally, changes in the program will incorporate the needs of existing farmers that responded to the producer survey.
Eleven participants received training for processing and safe handling and storage of finished birds.
Program participants were survey to obtain feedback. Of the sixteen respondents, ten stated the availability of a processing unit would influence their production for the 2004 season. For three of the ten, 2004 will be their first season producing meat birds. For the six respondents not influenced by a processing unit, two have their own equipment, two are currently raising only layers, one was unaware of the availability of the unit, and the sixth is in the investigation phase.
All respondents stated they would be very likely to attend farm tours or pasture walks, which supports the value of farmer-to-farmer learning. For new farmer, processing workshops are still rated as high priority. Additional topics producers would like to have offered include nutrition/health and business planning and marketing.
Areas needing additional study
- To address the sustainable of poultry procudtion it is necessary to have a better understanding of the economic impact of feeding methods and management systems. Further research is needed to determine the true cost of production and benefit of practices such as pasture raising, certified organic, or free range production.
Consumer fact sheet is needed to assist with educating the public about methods of raising poultry, and impact of system or breed on finished product. The benefit of buying directly from producers on local economy and differences in taste or nutritive value should also be included.
Access to consistent feed sources for organic or all natural feeds.