The Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County is hosting a meeting tonight at 7 to discuss the shortage of slaughterhouse facilities in the region.
One note to this story: bison farmer Dale Healey is retiring, but he says it had nothing to do with the slaughterhouse shortage.
Cook also educated listeners - and producers...
Meat producers like Dale Healey have a lot to be happy about these days. Healey has raised bison outside
We had such a run on the meat this fall that we got wiped out early.
Healey called his slaughterhouse to make an appointment to butcher more buffalo. But they were booked solid.
Perhaps three years ago, we were able to call and get in within two to three weeks.
This is where we stock all our bison meat.
Healey stores the cuts in four freezers in his garage. This winter, three are empty.
Some bison roasts on hand, a little bit of sausage, and jerky. Until we can get more animals, that's our supply.
With concerns over E Coli, feedlots, and healthy eating, people are buying more local meats. Farmers are struggling to keep up with demand. But between consumer and producer, the slaughterhouse is the bottleneck, especially in the fall when hunters and farmers are hustling to get their animals butchered.
Danny Baker raises pigs, beef cows, and goats on
They're born in the early spring. You're raising them through the summer. You don't want to keep them through the winter. You want to slaughter them in the fall.
Farmers now have to book months in advance. But that's hard to do for the small farms that serve this growing niche market. Grass-fed beef and lamb farmer Veronica Lamoth of Beartown Farms in
You cannot take like 10 cows at a time and expecting to have all the space.
Local meat is still a tiny sliver of overall meat consumption. But the slaughterhouse shortage is big enough that it's registering with policy makers. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the New York Times "it's pretty clear attention needs to be paid to this." The USDA has already started to certify mobile slaughterhouses that serve large rural areas.
Jessica Zeihm is spokeswoman for
New York and
There are two kinds of slaughterhouses in
To sell meat in a store or at a farmers' market or to a restaurant, the meat has to be processed at the second kind, a USDA-certified slaughterhouse. There are 48 in all of
This is our aging cooler here.
Tom Liberty co-owns Tri-Town Packing in
We don't buy any of these. They're all brought in by area farmers who either use them for their home freezer or they sell 'em.
People that wanted something done in December, I was booked. So now we're doing those in January and February. If it wasn't for November and December, we could do it all.
Tri-Town has been approached by ag officials and economic developers about expanding. But
I have no idea if this volume will still be here in a year or two or not. Your guess is as good as mine.
Ag leaders are trying to make the case that local meats are here to stay. Kirby Selkirk raises lamb in
Cause we're talking a lot of money. And then, help. You've gotta have some very skilled people in there. Now are they going to depend on Kirby and all the others that are coming in here to continue bring our animals to them and if not, what are they going to do? It's a huge risk.
St. Lawrence County farmers are exploring reopening a shuttered abattoir in Briar Hill, near the
A slaughterhouse near
For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein in