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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foothills Pilot Plant

Foothills Pilot Plant- Marion, NC McDowell County -Poultry and Rabbit Processing January 2011 Update: The plant is nearing completion and scheduled to open for processing in the spring of 2011. The photo to the left was taken in late January 2011. Small family farms and community leaders are supporting the development of the Foothills Pilot Plant, a small scale slaughtering and processing facility serving independent growers of poultry and rabbits. Based upon a feasibility study commissioned in 2006, a plan has been developed for establishment of this project in Marion NC, in partnership with the McDowell Economic Development Association (MEDA), McDowell County Government, independent growers, NCDA&CS, and NC State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS) and NCA&T University. As of January 2009, the project has received $636,000 in support for development. Major contributors include the North Carolina Golden LEAF Foundation, the North Carolina Rural Center, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. This project will serve small, diversified farms located primarily in the western half of the state with a strong interest in increasing production of poultry and rabbits through use of an inspected slaughter and processing facility. The western half of the state has the greatest unmet demand for access to a USDA- or state-inspected small-animal slaughter facility. At least 30 small scale independent poultry and rabbit producers in the western NC region have expressed demand for access to inspected slaughter and processing services. These growers are dispersed among 15 counties, with McDowell County located in the center of the producer range. The closest inspected plant serving independents is located in Kingstree, South Carolina, over 200 miles to the east. Most growers cannot handle the logistics of live bird transportation that far, and some who have tried have experienced high mortality rates. This project pursues the following set of outcomes: •A facility is established that allows producers to have small volumes of a variety of poultry and rabbit products of their own raising processed and inspected. •Producers receive formal training for safe and wholesome commercial growing, processing and marketing of meat products that are state or federally inspected. •Producers are able to understand and meet all regulatory issues affecting their businesses. •Producers have a variety of options for marketing inspected meat, including direct marketing, wholesale distribution and participation in associations or other business entities for marketing and sales. •Small-volume producers are able to expand production and professionalize their businesses. The establishment of slaughter and processing services for small meat animals in the region would likely substantially increase production among growers. Using data supplied only by existing small animal producers, research indicates an annual potential of 33,205 head of small animals processed at an inspected facility in its earliest stages of operation, with a retail value estimated at $377,000 per year. This represents a five-fold increase from current recorded production volumes. Based on measured levels of producer demand and potential availability of funding, participants are developing a pilot plant for slaughter and processing of multiple species of poultry and rabbits with a maximum daily throughput of not more than 1,000 chickens per day. The project expects to build a ca. 3,000 square foot prefabricated building and thereafter complete interior build-out using local skilled labor. The design will meet regulatory requirements for every level of inspection, including USDA and state inspection. The pilot plant is expected to provide slaughtering services approximately twice weekly during its initial year of operation, with facility operations led by a paid general manager. Labor for processing can be sourced from the minimum security prison on a work-release program, until sufficient production volume is achieved to justify hiring full-time processing staff. For more information contact

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