Assessing the Food and Environmental Safety and Economic Feasibility of Mobile Slaughter Units for Pasture Poultry Grower

2011 Annual Report for LS11-245

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $240,780.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Alali Walid
University of Georgia

Assessing the Food and Environmental Safety and Economic Feasibility of Mobile Slaughter Units for Pasture Poultry Grower


The demand for locally produced food in the United States continues to grow. Pasture poultry production is a sustainable farming system that has been adopted by many small-scale farmers in the Southeast and elsewhere. Pasture poultry farmers are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to addressing consumer demand for their locally produced chickens because birds processed on-farm are exempted from USDA inspection and do not qualify for USDA Inspected status. Due to this exemption, pasture poultry sales have been limited to sales to household consumers and very few food service market venues. The current Mobile Processing Unit (MPU) Initiative being discussed among pasture poultry farmers and non-profit organizations proposes a solution involving MPUs; a potential USDA inspected facility that could eliminate regulatory impasses, and increase marketability and profitability for farmers. The USDA-FSIS “Mobile Slaughter Unit Compliance Guide”1 provides recommendations for farmers who wish to obtain USDA-inspected status in accordance with FSIS regulations. Due to a lack of data, the guide recommends assessment of the food safety of MPU processing and resulting products, and assessment of the impact of disposal of processing waste on the farming environment. Obtaining the data will help farmers to fulfill a large part of the federal inspection requirements. Since MPU processing would require a substantial economic investment by farmers with already limited resources, an evaluation of the economic feasibility of MPU processing and marketability of the products in comparison with current processing methods would allow farmers to strategize the most beneficial method of pasture poultry production.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The goals of this project are to: 1) determine the food safety risk of MPU processing and product compared to on-farm and processing at small USDA facilities, 2) assess the impact of MPU waste disposal on the environment compared to the other types of processing, 3) assess the economic feasibility of pasture poultry processing using MPU versus other types of processing, and 4) evaluate the consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for pasture poultry versus other non-local chicken brands. Information dissemination of the research findings to pasture poultry farmers and training the farmers on food safety, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs and Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) for MPU will be conducted. Knowledge gained from this project will support the pasture poultry farmers by fulfilling a large part of the federal inspection requirements on food safety and environmental impact of MPU processing and products. The project will also generate valuable data to farmers on the economic feasibility of MPU and the market access by examining consumers’ WTP for local products. This will allow them to strategic budgetary decisions with less infrastructure investment risk. This application conforms to organic farming systems priority on evaluation of the biological (microbial contamination) and economic (feasibility and marketability) processes associated with MPU processing/production of organic (all-natural) pasture poultry production systems in the Southeast. The proposed study addresses the mission of the Southern SARE program by assessing the food safety, environment, economics, marketability of agriculture practices (i.e., MPU versus on-farm and small USDA facility processing) that is expected to greatly benefit small-sized pasture poultry farmers and their families.


The SARE funds were available to us late November 2011; therefore we have limited accomplishments during the year of 2011.
A principal investigator meeting has been organized to be held at the University of Arkansas-Center for Food Safety on February 1, 2012.
Objectives 1 and 2:
We visited a USDA facility five times and sampled 10 pasture poultry carcasses at each visit. The team also visited (twice) an on-farm grower and sampled chicken carcasses, soil, water, wastewater, and compost. All the samples have been analyzed for Salmonella and Campylobacter numbers following a USDA-FSIS protocol.
We have contacted 2 farmers in Louisiana who have just started their pullets (just hatched). These pullets will be prepared to go on pastures in the next couple of weeks and then will be ready for harvest by end of April or second week of May. We plan to visit these pastures to collect all the samples for the project, process them for Campylobacter and Salmonella and send the environmental samples to Arkansas. We will make subsequent trips to farms during summer to finish sampling.
We have the University of Arkansas-Poultry Science MPU processing of pasture chickens dates set. We will be working with two farmers to process a total of 300 birds over 10 processing date (30 birds per date). We will also be collecting data related water and electricity use during processing. We also giving the two farmers an economic feasibility survey (developed by Co-PI: Dr Kostandini).
Objective 3
We have collected information (through literature reviews) on the production costs and price of pasture poultry across the US as well some processing costs on USDA-inspected facilities and MPUs. We have also developed survey instruments that will be pre-tested and will be sent out soon.
Objective 4
Plans to conduct the willingness to pay (WTP) studies in the second year of the project
Education objective
Plans to carry out the education and outreach in the second year of the project

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Pasture poultry farmers are interested in participating in our studies in the three states. They are also expecting that the results of our project will greatly benefit them to improve the food and environmental safety of their products as well as their economic feasibility and product marketability.


Dr. Steven Ricke
Center for Food Safety Director
University of Arkansas
2650 N. Young Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72704
Office Phone: 4795754678
Dr. Kristen Gibson
Post-doctorate Research Associate
University of Arkansas
2435 N Hatch Ave
Biomass Research Center
Fayetteville, AR 72704
Office Phone: 4795756515
Philip Crandall
University of Arkansas
2650 N. Young Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72704
Office Phone: 4795757686
Dr. Divya Jaroni
Assistant Professor
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Office Phone: 4057449263
Dr. Genti Kostandini
Assistant Professor
University of Georgia
1109 Experiment Street
Rm 3423
Griffin, GA 30223
Office Phone: 7702287231