Farmer Access to Regional Meat Processing Capacity in the North Central Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Raymond Florax
Purdue University

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine, poultry, swine


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Farm Business Management: market study, marketing management, new enterprise development, value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public policy, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    A vibrant local food system can increase local jobs, provide consumers more choices, farmers with greater market access, and the community with more business activity. Local processing capacity of livestock is a critical link for local food systems to function. This project analyzes economic factors that explain the availability of custom slaughter and processing firms and their spatial relation to farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region. A regression model will be utilized to determine average cow herd size per county availability of value added capacity as the dependent variable. Slaughterhouse characteristics will be used as explanatory variables, including capacity, inspection level, freezer storage capacity, and seasonality peaks. Regional characteristic such as population density and income, and farm characteristics such as average farm size and average age of farmer in each county are modeled. Progress will be evaluated on a timeline basis to ensure timely completion of the project. This study will provide useful data and analysis for farmers, local food advocates, planners and policy makers. It will provide indicators of “holes” in local food systems at the county, state, and regional level and offer a more complete assessment of the local processing capacity.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Outcomes - Farmers are often frustrated with their inability to participate in the local food system primarily because of a lack of processing capacity. Small farms typically produce for local markets. While many can produce fresh vegetables to sell at local farmers markets and similar venues their ability to sell meats (and processed products) is limited to slaughter and production capacity and availability. Within the North Central Region several working farm groups have been formed to determine the viability of direct marketing meats. The producers often argue that the stumbling block for many of these attempts is not lack of livestock, nor lack of demand, but lack of custom processing capacity. This study will conduct a comprehensive study of all processing facilities, capacities, and availabilities to producers in the North Central Region including USDA, State, and Health department inspected facilities. Laws vary somewhat by state as to the health standard for inspection of slaughtering animals but all interstate of meat must comply with USDA inspection standards. This comprehensive study can be utilized to determine processing capacity, level of inspection available (USDA, State, Health Department) and spatial relationship of the capacity to livestock production and consumers in the North Central Region. If local food systems are to be vibrant they must contain an accessible and reliable processing capacity to bridge the gap between producers and consumers. This study can be very useful to producers and consumers, local food system advocates, planners, and policy makers to determine an appropriate level of meat processing availability and capacities in their local area.

    This study can be an initial assessment of meat processing capacity and factors effecting location in local areas on a first order basis.

    An intermediate effect is that this study could be used to pinpoint shortfall areas that could potentially benefit from local processing enhancements.

    Long term, further studies or market assessment would be required to determine viability and placement of actual firm(s) in order to provide balanced vibrant local food systems in all areas of the North Central Region. This study is very timely as the increased activity and interest in promoting and sourcing local foods is very strong, it is time to assess the local custom processing availability to farmer and ranchers.

    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.