Infrastructure Support for Small Livestock Processing Facilities

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $46,796.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jane Boles
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal abstract:

    Alterations in food safety requirements are going to challenge the ability of small processors to remain sustainable. New requirements from USDA will require small and very small meat processors to conduct microbial testing. Small processors do not have the technical skills to begin the process to be able conduct their own validation studies nor develop statistical sampling plans to meet the new requirements. Also, introduction of an outside professional entity in the documentation, development of procedures and testing helps to strengthen the information in regulatory eyes. For processors to remain sustainable it is imperative that the plants validate the processes they currently are using, develop written procedures they can include in their food safety plans to ensure continued safety of the consumers and provide some statistical justification to their sampling plans. Current regulations have taken a one size fits all approach not recognizing that very small processors are not producing the volume of product that larger processors manufacture. These large plants also have technical people that have been trained in microbiology or meat science to conduct the validation studies that are being required by USDA. Small processors need help from University personnel who have been trained in the science of data collection to develop a process to prove that their procedure is acceptable or to develop alternatives to make sure the products being produced are safe. Increased concentration of supermarkets along with food safety concerns has lead to an increase desire for locally grown and processed products. With the concentration of meat processing facilities, there are more producers who desire to capitalize on the locally grown market. Small local processing facilities are an integral part of the new move toward local production. Many of the small processors are working with local ranchers to produce products for regional and local markets. However, consumer concerns for food safety and small plant compliance with new federal guidelines requires a level of testing and monitoring common and easily accomplished in large plants, but a major obstacle to the viability of small local processing facilities. This project will partner the expertise at the Montana State University Meat Lab with the needs of local Montana processors and the State Inspection program in a manner that educates and helps processors comply with new federal regulations insuring a safe locally processed meat product. After the completion of this project, processors will have a written testing plan tailor made for their processes that will help them comply with the ever changing inspection requirements. The processor will also have data to support the decisions they have made for food safety as well as the procedures to construct charts that can be used to track their progress for microbial food safety. The project will construct the foundation to help the small processors of Montana to comply with inspection requirements for testing along with insuring the production of a safe meat product.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of the study is to help small processors develop testing protocols for E. coli and write the procedures to meet changes in inspection requirements.

    Initial Contact September 2009
    First Quarter Testing - September - October, 2009
    Second Quarter Testing - January - February, 2010
    Third Quarter Testing - April – May, 2010
    Fourth Quarter Testing - September - October, 2010
    Analysis of Data - December, 2010 and January 2011
    Supply processors with written procedures - February - April 2011
    Present Final report at Mt Meat Processors meet. - April 2011
    Follow up testing - May and June, 2011
    Final Report to SARE - September 2011

    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.