- Animal Products: fiber, fur, leather, meat, bone broth, rendered fat
- Animal Production: meat processing, meat processing facilities, processing regulations
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives, feasibility study, value added
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, local and regional food systems
This project addresses two key problems: lack of local meat processors in southern Wisconsin in addition to amplifying representation of women in the meat industry.
In the tri-county area in Southern Wisconsin (Lafayette, Iowa & Green Counties), there are only four state inspected facilities; however, there remains increasing unmet demand from area farmers for meat processing, especially a facility specializing in no stress kill, organic and artisan-cured meats. The current facilities available are only Wisconsin licensed and have long waiting times. Furthermore, the majority of state facilities trim recipes include ingredients that contradict the quality and integrity of the meat, such as adding MSG and high fructose corn syrup. With our close proximity to Illinois and Iowa markets, many of the local producers are forced to use federal USDA facilities located long distances from their farm.
Over twenty area farms have expressed interest in potentially using such a facility; however, due to the scale of such a potential project, our local community has not been able to bring it to the next level of strategic planning, which this grant would wonderfully be able to support.
Additionally, this project provides learning and insight into how to increase the role women play in the meat industry. While women farmers are increasing in number at over 20 percent in the last 20 years, we still remain significantly underrepresented in the meat industry, male-led professions: male ranchers account for 97% of all US livestock sales (2012 census). This statistic manifests itself locally with no female leadership in the current meat processing facilities. We see the need for improved networks, training, and support to get women involved.
This project address the two key problems as follows:
1) Establishing a plan for a new local meat processor
We will collaboratively bring together key stakeholders to develop a strategic vision and detailed business plan for launching a cooperatively and women-led processing facility in our region. Specifically, we will research opportunities for a:
- USDA Federally inspected (or a State Facility that has a reciprocity agreement) Butcher facility
- Federally USDA (or reciprocity) licensed Mobile Slaughter Facility
- Retail meat market featuring local and sustainably raised meat
- Learning space for meat enthusiasts
- Organic Approved Facility
- Charcuterie furthering value added
- Larding, and specialty sausage making
- Feasibility of further utilizing butchered animal, using hides for local leather, bones for broth and soil amendments
Through engaged research (including on-site visits of existing facilities), facilitated community focus groups and discussion and meetings with various state and federal regulatory officials, we will establish the foundation for a business plan and funding sources as well as provide a template and insights for other communities that have a need for increased local processors. Additionally, we will dial into the financial feasibility of such a facility and find additional funding options if the project proves to be feasible.
2) Amplifying representation of women in the meat industry
Being uniquely female farmer led, this whole project process will be documented in a detailed case study with various outreach materials (articles, workshop, etc.) to help support other female farmers in similar situations. Gender barriers will have the forum for discussion and collaborative solutions which will then via these outreach materials help inspire and guide other women to take leadership roles in meat processing.
In order for more women to engage in the meat processing industry, we need to see increased role models to aspire to. Through the documentation of both the successes and challenges of this project, this project will achieve exactly that.
- Assess the feasibility and demand for a cooperatively owned, federally licensed (or a reciprocity agreement) and woman-farmer led mobile slaughtering unit and/or retail butcher establishment in South Central Wisconsin, primarily servicing the counties of Green, Lafayette and Iowa.
- Benefit the environment by growing local meat production, which decreases the amount of fuel used to transport product and encourages practices these farmers are known to use including: using local feed sources that are traceable, pasturing, organic production, and spreading manure over large areas rather than being concentrated and turned into a negative externality.
- Increase income in the long-term for area farmers by providing additional sales outlets, additional products and opportunities, increasing ease of processing meat and decreasing time spent away from the farm, keeping more money earned in the local economy, and creating local jobs with the mobile slaughtering unit and potential retail facility.
- Provide social benefits including a model for other regions, preservation of area cultural tradition, customer and farmer education about the local market supply, and a local meat production model that is transparent and ethical throughout the production and labor process.