Enhancing Feasibility for Range Poultry Expansion

2002 Annual Report for LS99-105

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $175,740.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Steven Muntz
Heifer International

Enhancing Feasibility for Range Poultry Expansion


Tools have been 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 will be released through NCAT early in 2003. Several other publications (a report on southern processing plants, a stock report, a poultry nutrition report, and a summary of laws regarding on-farm processing) have been completed and are currently (or will soon be) available through the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association website. Processing needs continue to be addressed in Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi, including the use of an approved mobile processing unit.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.


Objective One

A meeting of over 20 project participants and invited guests was held in Fayetteville, Arkansas to evaluate the feasibility study toolbox and template. Excellent input was received and incorporated into the toolbox. The gathering was also used as an opportunity to address small-scale poultry processing issues and the challenges faced by small processors. This discussion enhanced the information used in the budget for a small processing plant in the toolbox.

Individuals using this toolbox are guided through the various considerations (family, marketing, production, profitability, finances, etc.) important in expanding a range poultry operation. To simplify this procedure, several decision trees were developed to help people with the numerous factors involved in starting or expanding a range poultry business. Business plan development and record keeping options are reviewed, and numerous resource contacts are provided.

The toolbox entitled: “Growing Your Range Poultry Business: An Entrepreneur’s Toolbox” is now complete and available from NCAT’s ATTRA project. This objective will be fully accomplished upon the release of the toolbox by NCAT/ATTRA to the public and a mailing early in 2003.

Objective Two

The Kentucky Mobile Processing Unit (MPU) entered its second year of legal operations. Approximately 2000 chickens were processed in the unit this year and a test run of turkeys was completed. In addition the unit (which was approved for shrimp production in 2001 as well) was used to process approximately 3,000 pounds of freshwater shrimp. Eighteen individuals have been trained as legal poultry facility managers for the unit. Though numbers are still small, the MPU continues to represent the only legal method for independent poultry producers to process their birds in the state of Kentucky.

Numerous challenges continue to face further development of the MPU. These include better farmer access through more MPU docking stations, relatively high cost of docking station development, and insurance requirements.

In Alabama, Heifer continues to be instrumental in getting producers working together to plan joint processing efforts by pooling poultry at a central location and hauling to an approved processing plant. Difficulties continue to emerge in finding a plant within a reasonable distance to which birds may be delivered.

In Mississippi, this project sponsored the conference: “Saving the Small Family Farm” to assist farmers in their efforts to find a legal poultry processing method. The conference was intended for farmers as well as state legislators who would be introduced to some of the issues farmers face in providing a legal product for the market. Over 50 people participated. Legislation may be necessary to improve the processing situation for farmers Mississippi. It is out of the scope of this project to accomplish a change in legislation, but the project has provided the opportunity for the various players to seriously consider the issues and the possibility of legislative action.

Several major information pieces were completed this year. These include a report on inspected processing facilities for independent producers in the southern SARE region (entitled: “Poultry Processing Facilities Available for use by Independent Producers in the Southern Region”), a report on reliable stock and appropriate breeds for pastured poultry producers (entitled: “Which Bird Shall I Raise? Genetic Options for Pastured Poultry Producers in North America”) and a report on nutrition and feed resources for pastured poultry producers (entitled: “Pasture-Raised Poultry Nutrition”). Most of these are currently available (or will soon be available) on the American Pastured Poultry Producers (APPPA) website or printed copies from NCAT’s ATTRA project.
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Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Objective One

The feasibility study toolbox will save many people a great deal of time. It is written for a broad audience with a desire to make a profit from range poultry production, whether they are direct marketing “pastured poultry,” building a processing plant, or working cooperatively with other producers. It will help them “pencil out” a range poultry enterprise, determine the profitability of an existing enterprise, understand the basics of feasibility and business planning, and find additional information and assistance.

The Toolbox has been presented by NCAT at the following meetings in 2002:

Oregon Pastured Poultry School, Oregon Cooperative Extension, September 8-9, 2002, Corvallis, OR

Future Farms 2002: A Supermarket of Ideas, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, November 15-16, 2002, Norman, OK

Agriculture That Lasts: How to Keep Farming, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, December 7, 2002, Yazoo City, MS

Objective Two

This project has broken new ground in the development of a state approved, federally exempt mobile processing unit. It is the first in existence and its development has sent out ripple effects across the country. It has served as a model for other states grappling with the same small producer processing issues. For example, the state of Washington plans to begin using a similar MPU this year. The people responsible for that effort took part in our MPU training last spring. Many other states have shown interest and have requested information and speakers about the Kentucky unit.

None of the developers of the unit in Kentucky believe the MPU to be the final solution to processing issues for small producers. The MPU serves a role in transition until small processors believe that there is enough of a market for the product to start building small scale processing plants once again. Such an occurrence is happening in Kentucky now. A processor, who participated in our MPU training last spring, has decided to start a small federally inspected plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Hopefully by the middle of 2003, Kentucky will have access to two legal poultry processing facilities. We have not been able to accomplish the same goal of access to legal processing facilities in the states of Mississippi and Alabama, but we continue to strive in that direction as was previously described.

The numerous nutrition, breeding stock and processing reports developed through this project, along with the toolbox mentioned in objective one, put more solid information at the fingertips of pastured poultry producers than ever before. It is the information that the producers were asking for, and it is now available. There are still many questions that have not been answered, but great steps forward have been achieved as a result of this project.
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Anne Fanatico

NCAT Agriculture Specialist
PO Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Office Phone: 5014429824
Website: www.attra.ncat.org
David Redhage

Natural Resources Economist
The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
PO Box 588
Poteau, OK 74953
Office Phone: 9186479123
Website: www.kerrcenter.com
Marion Simon

State Specialist for Small Farm and Part Time Farm
Kentucky State University
400 East Main
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office Phone: 5025976437
Holly Born

NCAT Agriculture Specialist
PO Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Office Phone: 5014429824
Website: www.attra.ncat.org