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Tri-Town Processing co-owner Tom Liberty. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein
Tri-Town Processing co-owner Tom Liberty. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein

Tri-Town Processing will close "short term" to USDA-inspected slaughter

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For newer updates on this story see: Tri-Town in negotiations with USDA

Update, 6/20/14, 10:30Tri-Town and the USDA plan to talk today about the situation. The USDA declined to comment on the situation yesterday.

Update, 6/19/14, 3 PM: We're continuing to report on this story and have this information as of this afternoon. The USDA did not shut down Tri-Town Processing. The USDA did suspend Tri-Town on Tuesday, but the plant was allowed to resume operations on Wednesday. Of their own accord, co-owners Tom and Jeff Liberty decided to suspend the part of their processing facility that allowed Tri-Town to put the USDA-inspected stamp on its products. The Libertys say they are frustrated with USDA inspectors, and are prepared to do only "custom" processing - or processing meats that are not for resale. Tri-Town and the USDA are still in negotiations. We'll have more later today.

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It looks like one of the North Country's only slaughterhouses will be closing its doors to much of its business: Tri-Town Processing, a family-owned plant in Brasher Falls has been open for 37 years. But as of yesterday, its owners say that while they'll still be taking on custom animals, they will no longer be able place that USDA-inspected stamp on their product.

Jeff Liberty owns the Tri-Town Plant with his father Tom. "Over the last few months, the current staff from the USDA has made it so difficult to operate that we've decided in the short term to forgo any federally inspected slaughter."

Yesterday morning, Liberty and his father had to call many of their customers, local farmers, who have relied on them to process their animals, that for now, they'll have to bring their animals somewhere else. "This is the first day that I woke up and I didn't really want to come to work."

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Reported by

Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

Tri-Town Processing co-owner Jeff Liberty. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein
Tri-Town Processing co-owner Jeff Liberty. NCPR file photo: David Sommerstein
Kassandra Barton raises cows, pigs, and sheep on her ranch in DeKalb, called the Eight O’Clock Ranch, and is one of the Tri-Town Plant’s customers. She told us that with so few other options for slaughter houses in our region, the closing of Tri-Town’s doors could have huge ripple effects across the North Country.­­­ 

Kassandra Barton: For us specifically, we really like being close, and we're based upon grass-fed, pasture-raised animals, humane treatment of our animals. We even work it that during the summer, during the hottest periods, we don't send animals because we don't want them in a truck where it's hot and they're being stressed for any longer. To truck them any further is just one of those things that personally we don't want to go down that road.

So, for them to close and not have another processor of their size and be able to handle the amount of animals that we go through is a game changer for us. We would most likely be closing our doors as well.

One of Tri-Town's products—sausage. Photo: Sarah Harris
One of Tri-Town's products—sausage. Photo: Sarah Harris
It's not just us that is affected, and our customers; it would be those people that work with us to raise animals. It would be the guy that gets our hay for us, and then other people: There are many others that they work with. Several people that have large ranches like ours that raise meat and sell it to restaurants and so forth. So, economically speaking, this is huge.

Natasha Haverty: I haven't been able to get through to the USDA to have them weigh in on this specific case, but I'm getting a sense from you that in your opinion their call on this was unreasonable, or that their regulations change in a way that made it an unreasonable expectation for a place like Tri-Town to stay afloat.

KB: I do, I feel that many of the rules that the USDA have are based upon gigantic, and I mean really, really gigantic operations. Tri-Town is such a little speck, and for anybody that would actually go up there and tour Tri-Town to see in their coolers, to see how they work, they're probably cleaner than any kitchen that I've gone into. I mean they're really, really humane people. They really care for the animals.

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