Federal grants to expand meat processing and out-of-state sales for Maine farms

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The US Department of Agriculture has awarded nearly $1 million to expand slaughterhouses and meat processing in Maine while potentially opening new markets for livestock.

Five companies and nonprofits will each receive approximately $200,000 through the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant program as part of $22 million distributed nationwide national. The grant program is intended to help facilities upgrade or expand to comply with federal inspection requirements and meet out-of-state sales standards. The national program was launched at a time when demand for slaughter and processing far exceeds capacity in many parts of the country.

Maine’s five facilities are:

  • Fork Food Lab in Portland
  • Olde Haven Farm LLC in Chelsea
  • Hatch’s Custom Meat Cutting LLC Crystal
  • Nest & Mullen LLC in Kennebunk
  • Rooney’s Meat Shop LLC in Mapleton

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater capacity at local and regional levels to ensure that disruptions – such as chain closures COVID-related production at large commercial processing plants – have less of an impact. In an interview with Maine Public, Vilsack cited the Fork Food Lab project in Portland as an example, as the $200,000 grant will allow the nonprofit to purchase the specialized equipment needed to meet food safety standards. federal inspections.
“This will allow it to become the first shared-use kitchen facility in New England with dedicated space for a multitude of meat processing activities,” Vilsack said. “So this is going to allow five processors to sell across state lines. It’s also going to create the opportunity for training and also provide the opportunity for a number of start-ups, ranging from five to eight processing start-up, so it’s really an exciting project and program and an opportunity to expand this local and regional food system.

Vilsack said Nest & Mullen in Kennebunk will use the grant to replace a processing facility that was destroyed by fire in September 2020, while Rooney’s in Mapleton will get refrigeration systems to meet federal requirements.

“So this is an opportunity for facilities in Maine to get help, and this is an opportunity for them to expand the market,” Vilsack said.

According a report Prepared for state lawmakers earlier this year, Maine has eight processing facilities that are inspected daily and can be used by farmers hoping to sell meat. Maine also has 44 custom slaughter and processing facilities that produce meat for customers but cannot be sold commercially.

“Maine has long struggled with inadequate institutional capacity for animal culling,” reads the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry task force report. “There simply aren’t enough inspected slaughterhouses in the state to slaughter and process the number of animals that Maine producers want to raise.”

“The meat shortages that occurred in 2020 when major out-of-state meatpacking plants had to close during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the capacity issue,” the report continues. “Currently, producers must make appointments for animal processing at inspected facilities months or even years in advance and often make appointments for the slaughter and processing of animals that have not yet been born.”

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