Enhancing Feasibility for Range Poultry Expansion
Tools are being developed to assist range poultry producers to determine if it is feasible to expand their operations. An entrepreneur’s toolbox to guide farmers in their desire for expansion has been developed and is currently under review. A summary of the federal and state laws regarding on-farm processing of poultry for all 50 states has been completed and is now available. A mobile processing unit for poultry has been built, approved and tested in Kentucky. The unit works acceptably, but additional effort will be required to making it accessible to more farmers in the state.
The objectives of this project are:
Develop a Feasibility Study Toolbox and Template
Improve infrastructure in terms of processing, nutritional and feed resources, and the quality of poultry stock for range production
The feasibility study toolbox and template are being developed to assist those farmers who are interested in expanding their range poultry enterprise. While most farmers considering expansion are well aware of the production aspects of their enterprise, they often lack the tools to analyze the whole picture of marketing and economic feasibility involved with their desired expansion.
The development of the feasibility study toolbox and template has taken place in stages over the last couple of years. In the first year, a producer survey was developed to provide some baseline data to inform the process of toolbox development. In subsequent years numerous farmers, processors, researchers and educators have been involved in the development of the various pieces of the toolbox. The toolbox is now completed in draft form and is in the review process. The review process should be completed by March.
Individuals using the toolbox are guided through the various considerations (family, marketing, production, profitability, finances, etc.) important in expanding a range poultry operation. Business plan development and record keeping options are reviewed, and suggestions for getting assistance with all of the details of planning are provided.
Other major pieces of the toolbox that should help farmers in their decision making process are a resource guide and budget templates. The resource guide provides contact information for numerous organizations and individuals who can provide a service to producers. This guide was developed for all thirteen states in the Southern SARE region. Budget templates showing typical costs for two different production models and allow the farmer to insert her own figures have been developed. Two similar budget templates have been developed that allow for cost comparisons of Kentucky’s mobile processing unit and a small USDA inspected stationary plant for those producers considering building processing facilities.
In the final year of the project, the toolbox and budget templates will be reviewed by educators, farmers, extensionists and others for content and usefulness. In addition a meeting to evaluate specific pieces of the toolbox is planned for the spring. Revisions to the toolbox will be made based on this input and the toolbox should be ready for publication by mid summer.
Important strides have been accomplished this year in terms of processing infrastructure. The Kentucky mobile processing unit (MPU) was officially approved by the Cabinet for Health Services. An exemption from federal inspection was also approved by the Food Safety Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. A “Training and Use Manual” for the unit was developed and separate training events for health department officials and potential facility managers were held in March. Several other processing days were scheduled to further train farmers and work out the “bugs” in the unit. In
all, five farmers processed and sold about 1200 chickens in the state through this unit in 2001. The numbers are small, but the accomplishment is great, considering all the politics and regulation surrounding poultry processing in this country. In the final year of the project we hope to incorporate some of the tools in the feasibility toolbox as we take the next steps forward in making the mobile processing unit more available to farmers. Discussions are currently underway to determine potential locations of additional docking stations and the management committee for the MPU is continuing to determine the best structure for use of the unit. The current thinking is that the unit would be most effective and provide the highest quality product if three to five docking stations are established and a Facility Manager is hired to manage the unit and transport it between docking stations on a regular schedule.
Plans to build mobile processing units in Mississippi and Alabama were abandoned in 2000 when it became apparent that we were not going to be able to get these units approved for use. Still, the intention of the project, which is to “improve infrastructure in terms of processing…” is being carried out in different ways in each of the two states. In Mississippi, it was determined that best way to move the issue of small scale poultry processing forward was to bring all the stakeholders to the table for a workshop to review the current situation and seek potential solutions. That workshop, which included meat inspection officials, farmers, veterinarians, and legislators was attended by over 40 people. Important issues were raised and more importantly relationships were formed that may lead to improved processing opportunities in the future. A task force consisting of Heifer International representatives, farmers and the Deputy Director of Meat Inspection was formed and will continue to meet in 2002 to help resolve this issue for the state. In addition, conversations are being held with Alcorn State University to discuss the use of their existing poultry processing facility.
In Alabama, a plan is in place to pool poultry raised by several producers at a central location and transport the poultry to a federally inspected plant just across the state line for processing. The poultry will fill a specific niche market for poultry processed according to Halal requirements. SARE funds will be used to jump start this initiative, providing the trailer, chicken crates, and funds for coordinating this cooperative effort. A meeting took place last fall involving producers, Heifer International Representatives and the owner of the processing plant to discuss possibilities. Details for carrying out this plan are currently being decided and the first chickens should be taken to the plant in the summer of 2002.
The other major step that has been taken this year is the completion of the summary of laws regarding on-farm processing of poultry in all 50 states. The summary is written in plain language and will give potential pastured poultry producers a quick idea of the legality of on-farm processing in their state. This is not intended to be the final legal say for farmers, but it should get them headed in the right direction. The summary will soon be available to the public at the website of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) website: www.APPPA.org In addition, NCAT/ATTRA will distribute hard copies of the publication.
Other infrastructure issues, as yet incomplete that will be put in final form in 2002 include a report on inspected processing facilities in the Southern SARE region, a report on reliable stock and appropriate breeds for pastured poultry producers and a report on nutrition and feed resources for pastured poultry producers.
State Specialist for Small Farm and Part Time Farm
Kentucky State University
400 East Main
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office Phone: 5025976437