Evaluating Mobile Slaughter Access for Producers and Local Partners

Project Overview

FS20-323
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $10,700.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Red Boot Goat Farm
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Sheila Austin
Red Boot Goat Farm

Commodities

  • Animals: goats

Practices

  • Animal Production: meat processing, meat processing facilities
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, feasibility study, market study
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal summary:

    Our solution is to increase USDA slaughter availability through use of USDA Inspected Mobile Processing.  Our goal is to launch a USDA Inspected Mobile Processing Unit (MPU) that will be used by existing custom exempt processors for the benefit of their local producers.

    Existing successful mobile processing units are structured with a mobile unit that travels to the farm or other locations and harvest the livestock. Typically, the offal is left at the farm or other location.  The carcass is transported back to a permanent further processing facility where it is chilled overnight, and then butchered into cuts of meat, packaged and frozen. Many examples of successful USDA Inspected mobile slaughter units are combined with permanent butchering, packaging, and storage facilities (i.e., Island Grown Farmers’ Cooperative, Bow, Washington).

    Prior SARE studies focused on evaluating the feasibility of launching an MPU for use by individual producers or groups of producers. In these prior studies, the feasibility of a State Inspected Halal Custom Slaughter was evaluated (SARE FNC05-584). And, other prior work has evaluated the feasibility of State inspected mobile slaughter units (SARE FNC99-250).  However, meat sold under custom exempt regulations cannot be sold through retail trade, limiting the market for the meat.

    Other studies have evaluated launching a USDA inspected facility in combination with a stationary butchering and processing facility (Curtis et. al. 2007). Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network (NMPAN) has many resources for groups interested in mobile processing.

    This project plans to evaluate the feasibility of launching a USDA-inspected MPU for use by existing custom exempt facilities as well as direct to individual producers.  Our vision is for existing custom exempt facilities to be able to expand their client base by offering their customers processing services under USDA Inspection. Meat slaughter services will also be made available to individual livestock producers.

    Potentially, the MPU would schedule inspected slaughter in coordination several custom exempt facilities over a month.  The MPU could either slaughter at the livestock owner’s farm or at the custom facility’s location.

    This solution minimizes investment in plant and equipment, taking advantage of the existing network of established custom exempt processing facilities in Florida. Custom exempt facilities typically have butcher, packaging and storage services.

    This solution differs from previously MPU projects funded by SARE.  Having mobile USDA compliant mobile slaughter unit(s) available to existing local custom slaughter facilities will benefit local communities in four ways: 1) local custom exempt facilities will be able to process for an expanded producer base, including niche meat companies wanting to sell USDA inspected meat; 2) livestock producers will have more options for slaughter and, potentially, access to on-farm slaughter which minimizes stress to the animal and transportation cost; 3) this project will increase slaughter access for sheep and goat producers; and, 4) consumers will benefit from increased access to local meat.

    The goal of this current proposed project is to conduct a feasibility study to analysis and evaluate the demand for a MPU for small ruminants in Florida. Specifically, to determine if it will be technically feasible and profitable. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop Business Concept. Red Boot will first verify the overall business concept, and detail this in a brief 10-page PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint will describe the functionality and project concept using pictures from other MPU’s, diagrams, and text. The power-point will be used to verify the scope of the project for potential stakeholders, including local custom exempt operators, farmers, regulators, and potential end users.
    1. Review Concept. The PowerPoint concept will be reviewed with managers of three custom exempt plants and food safety faculty at University of Florida. There, questions and comments will be incorporated into the business concept.
    1. Development of Potential Stakeholder List. Red Boot will develop a list of potential end users of the mobile processing unit. Potential users include existing custom exempt facilities as well as independent processors. Red Boot will collect contact information, email addresses, business locations, and basic profile information.
    1. Estimating Demand for Local Slaughter. Red Boot will contract with the University of Florida to develop, execute, and analyze the digital survey information. Information from the survey will be critical to determine if there will be enough users for the proposed slaughter facility. The survey will show demand by location for slaughter services by species, potential volume, and willingness to pay for these slaughter services. A bid for $5,000 has been provided by William Messina, Economic Analysist, Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida.  Sheila Austin and project team will conduct interviews and administer surveys to stakeholders.  Angela McKenzie-Jakes, FAMU extension will be critical to identifying small ruminant producers
    1. Equipment. The cost of purchasing and equipping a mobile processing unit will be estimated. Red Boot’s team will collect cost information on purchasing a trailer unit and different pieces of processing equipment. Prior research by Curtis, et.al. details a comprehensive framework for developing the cost of the equipment and the mobile unit. Prior studies give an overview of staffing, infrastructure (water, electricity, sewage) needed to operate the unit.  Red Boot will assume that the base unit will be purchased from TryVan, who has supplied the majority of MPUs in operation. Sheila Austin and project team will collect the information.
    1. Operating Costs and Expected Revenue. Sheila Austin and project team will collect information on operating costs and the cost of the processing unit.
    1. Pro Forma Financials. Financials will be developed for the mobile processing business to verify that the business is financially feasible. If feasible, additional work will be needed on funding operational strategies. Mark Yarrick, a business development professional, will perform the analysis.
    1. Business Plan. If feasible, a brief business plan will be developed that describes the overall business, projected revenues and expenses, and resources needed to purchase and equip the mobile processing unit. Mark Yarrick will write this.
    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.