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The mobile poultry slaughterhouse under construction. Photo courtesy <a href="">North Country Pastured</a>
The mobile poultry slaughterhouse under construction. Photo courtesy North Country Pastured

Chicken processors nearly on line

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Almost ten years ago, a visiting speaker at St. Lawrence University planted a seed. Economist Michael Shuman told an audience that farmers could jolt the North Country economy by producing a lot more meat. "You have a lot more room to produce your own beef cows," Shuman told the Burt Symposium in 2003. "You could produce a lot more of your own pigs. And chickens are not even in the game."

Community leaders have recalled that advice, to have the thousands of local residents who eat chicken buy it from a local farm, many times since.

The idea is about to bear fruit. The first USDA certified poultry slaughterhouses in the North Country are nearly set to begin production.

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David Sommerstein
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That's right – not one, but two USDA certified poultry slaughterhouses are under construction.

The first is a mobile one, called North Country Pastured. It looks like a white single-wide trailer. It'll make regular stops in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, and Clinton counties. Farmers will be able to schedule time to use it online or by phone. It can process up to 400 birds a day.

Manager Renee Smith, a farmer in Dekalb, says the project was supposed to be ready last July, "but the company, Brothers Bonding Equipment out of Ohio, that is building our unit, also builds projects for the Department of Defense, which took precedence over our project."

Smith says the mobile unit is now sure to arrive in January and be open for business in February.

North Country Pastured got a $130,000 state grant through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. Smith says raising chickens will offer hundreds of farmers a quick way to make money: "It allows farmers income in eight to 10 weeks. There's not another way to raise some meat, or really, produce, that farmers are going to able to receive their return that quickly."

Many farmers across the region already raise and sell chicken from their farms. But the advantage of processing birds at a USDA-certified slaughterhouse is you can sell to stores and restaurants. That's why one farmer in Massena is building her own USDA certified facility.

Kathy Smith--no relation to Renee Smith—says her husband is doing the building. "Right now the shell is up. The roof is on. The flooring and drains are all in."

Smith says she raised 1,000 birds this year and wants to triple that next year, especially by selling to local restaurants.

"Lake Placid, there are some up there that are very interested in it when we get the slaughterhouse going. There's one restaurant that actually wants to come down and see it. Restaurants can't get local chicken because there's no local slaughterhouses around for chicken."

Smith says her focus is raising the birds humanely, and she believes there's a market for that.

"Just because animals are being raised for meat doesn't mean they don't deserve a good life, y'know, doesn't deserve a kind word. When you talk to them, they respond."

Economist Michael Shuman, who made that speech back in 2003 saying North Country farmers should raise more chicken, also said based on national averages, North Country residents eat two million chickens a year. These new slaughterhouse operators and the farmers who use them are hoping those people soon buy a lot of that chicken locally.

FULL DISCLOSURE: NCPR's General Manager, Ellen Rocco, is a partner in North Country Pastured LLC.

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