Mobile Poultry Processing Units: Reports from the Field

Small Meat Processors February 28, 2017 Print Friendly and PDF

A Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network webinar

Learn more about NMPAN: www.nichemeatprocessing.org

Webinar Description

Mobile poultry processing units (MPPUs) have been around for more than ten years. On this webinar, we learned about five MPPUs on the ground around the country: Kentucky, Montana, Vermont, and two in Massachusetts. Each of our speakers covered the following: 

  • Brief history of the MPPU and primary partners
  • Costs to build and operate
  • Revenue and whether costs are being covered
  • Work to date: #s of poultry processed/farmers served
  • Whether the MPPU has successfully solved the problem it was designed to solve
  • Lessons learned

Date: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Duration: 90 minutes

Speakers 

Click here to view the webinar recording

Click on the links below to view each speaker's presentation slides

Jennifer Hashley's slides

Angela Caporelli's slides

Jefferson Munroe's slides

Chelsea Bardot Lewis's slides

Jan Tusick's slides

 

Other useful resources

Mobile Poultry Processing Unit, Food and Farm Safety Management Guide for Small-Scale Poultry Producers and Processors Using a Massachusetts-Inspected MPPU

NMPAN's 2009 webinar on mobile poultry processing units in Montana, Vermont, and California

NMPAN mobile poultry processing unit case studies:

 

Questions? Comments? Need more information?

Contact: Lauren Gwin, NMPAN Co-coordinator: lauren.gwin[at]oregonstate.edu.

 

Transcript of the Webinar

 

Introduction, ArionThiboumery, NMPAN

Mobile poultry processing units (MPPUs) are movable trailers with of all the necessary equipment in a space designed for safe and sanitary poultry processing. MPPUs have been around for at least a decade. We know of nine of them and I've heard of several more in the works. How are these existing units working? Are they meeting the goals that they originally set out to meet?

Today we're going to hear reports from the field from about five mobile poultry units: in Kentucky, Montana, Vermont, and two in Massachusetts. Each of our speakers will tell us how the unit got started, how it works, what it costs, what it has accomplished, and what lessons they've learned along the way. 

Our first speaker is Jennifer Hashley, director of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, a partnership between Tufts University and Community Teamwork Incorporated, which helps limited resource farmers in Massachusetts get started to preserve farmland and expand access to local food. She is a farmer herself, raising livestock and vegetables. She has a Master's in Agricultural Policy from Tufts University. 

Presentation by Jennifer Hashley

Today I'm going to describe the Massachusetts Mobile Processing Poultry Units. This has been a partnership project between our organization, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the New England Small Farm Institute, located in Belchertown, Massachusetts. We got involved with this because, as many of you are probably aware, the missing link between farm raised poultry and getting it to consumers is the processing component. In Massachusetts, we have over 250 farmers markets, a very active CSA community and there's a lot of demand for local meat and poultry. In our state we do not have any USDA-inspected poultry processing facilities, and when we started the project several years ago, there weren't any in the region either. We wanted to be able to build this project and provide a legal pathway for affordable small-scale infrastructure and a way for farmers to bring products directly to consumers.

I will start with a brief history of our mobile poultry processing unit project. Back in 1999, the New England Small Farm Institute was working with a group of farmers to address the lack of processing in the area. They built a very rudimentary processing unit that didn't move forward into commerce or with the regulatory process but they kept plugging away at it. They continued to raise funds, built a different prototype unit, and in 2006, they had an open-air demonstration day with funders and regulatory agencies for the first time.

That unit moved forward in 2007. We did some pilot testing and monitoring of our wastewater and solid waste capture to further engage the regulators and to move the regulatory process forward. During the next four years we conducted a pilot project with this first open-air prototype. We had about seven licensed users throughout the state and offered a lot of trainings to over 180 other producers over that four-year period.

In July 2010, toward the end of our four-year pilot project, a new USDA plant opened in Vermont. That expanded some marketing opportunities for folks to get their birds processed. During that four year pilot project we realized that the open-air model was great for many reasons, but we were also looking toward building another enclosed unit for reasons that I will discuss.

In 2011, our state left the pilot project mode and we moved into routine status, which meant that our Department of Public Health changed the regulatory framework and now MPPUs are a permanent part of their ongoing licensing protocol. They also approved our enclosed unit and have begun a process to encourage more on-farm licensed facilities to come online.

Our key partners, agencies and funders in this project have been the regulators. Our Department of Health, Food Protection Program, requires a state slaughter license for anyone selling even one bird in commerce in Massachusetts, which costs $225 annually. Our Department of Environmental Protection regulates wastewater and solid waste disposal, and they have created criteria for these units. Our Department of Agricultural Resources regulates animal health and the composting of animal products. We also are unique in Massachusetts in that we have "home rule," so local boards of health have to approve all slaughtering activities or other noisome trades in our community. The importance of the background regulatory landscape cannot be overlooked.

Most of our funding for this project has come from USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program; our local foundation, the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture; Department of Ag Resources had an agricultural innovation center grant; our training funding came from Northeast SARE, research and education; and individual donors contributed toward building the second mobile unit. 

We have three mobile units currently operating in Massachusetts. I'm going to talk about the two that are on the mainland of Massachusetts. Unit 1 services western Massachusetts and it is mostly operated by the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI). Unit 2, which is the enclosed unit, is more focused on eastern Massachusetts and is operated by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, which I work for.

Unit 1 is the open-air prototype operated by NESFI. It is a 24' long utility trailer with a slatted composite floor (although not the original floor) with a 6-fixed broiler cone kill cabinet and trough. It travels with an electric stun knife, a Poultryman scalder and picker. We did have to custom weld a shoot around the bottom of the picker to meet state regulations. They wanted to be able to channel the feathers and water that came off of the picker. There's also a small holding tank for pre-chilling.

There are two hot water hand wash sinks on either side of the clean and the dirty side, heated by propane. As you can see by the awning steel posts there [see slides], there was a lot of expensive custom fabrication involved in building this unit. We had to put a cover over it for both user comfort and processing conditions and to provide the cover. It is open air and it's a little bit unique in that respect. We estimate that it cost between $25,000 and $35,000 to build. This was the first prototype so we built and re-built it many, many times. We imagine if someone else were to build this from scratch it would cost about $30,000 to build again.

As for the operating costs of the Unit 1 open-air model, the Organic Small Farm Institute has a really nice summary of last year's pricing structure and their management fees and ownership costs. They charge users a $100 per year membership fee, $2.25 per bird, transport paid by the user, and in their model the manager travels with the unit. In 2011 they had a net profit over their management costs of $203. They process over 2000 birds per year for three users; estimated value to the marketplace is over $40,000. More details can be found in their report online [see slides].

We have met some challenges and learned some lessons operating Unit 1 over the four-year pilot project and last year. Its durability on long hauls over the road is challenging. All the equipment is exposed to the air. As it's moving down the highway, things break or fall off; they need to be strapped down. Weather has been an issue. Again, in cold weather, it's very exposed so pipes freeze. Before we had the full unit awning, if it was raining, half the people were getting wet and the birds as well. We've had different equipment issues over the years [see slides for photos] and the waste handling is very diverse because there are multiple points where both the viscera and the water are collected into the same tubs and need to be managed in multiple locations.

There are benefits to an open-air unit: there are no walls and limited ceiling, so it's easy to clean up. There is a nice breeze on a wonderful day. The ambiance is great. It's much easier to transport than the enclosed unit. Everything is pretty accessible for repairs and maintenance. It was less expensive to build.

The Unit 2 enclosed prototype that we build is a 26' aluminum trailer. It's about 12' tall, 9,000 pounds, 1,800 of that on the bumper due to a generator that we added later. It has Ashley kill cabinets, eight broiler cones which are interchangeable and some turkey cones, which offer some flexibility. It's also equipped with an electric stun knife. It has an Ashley scalder, a pickwick picker with a kick-out shoot into the clean room, a nice wall and pass-through, four-man visceration table, electric and on-demand hot water heater for both hand wash sinks, and a lot of bells and whistles that we added. It has ceiling fans, lights, vents, and several outlets. The floors are tapered into a drain. Everything comes out of a single-flow pipe at the exit point so it's very easy to collect wastewater. Solids and water are separated so that's easy to deal with. It has a 10-kilowatt diesel generator, which we needed to add after the fact because the power draw of this unit exceeded what most farms had available to them. We realize it offers greater flexibility as to where it can be located on the farm. It cost about $90,000 to build, which was far more than we anticipated but we're pretty happy with what it does for now.

Last year was our first year with this unit, starting in May. As a result, New Entry did not put together a summary for operating costs from last year that was as comprehensive as the summary for the other unit. We used a no membership fee model, a rental fee on a sliding scale basis (as you can see on the right [see slides]), transport is covered by the user, and we provide a lot of training both in our courses and on site during their first use. There's no regular manager that travels with the unit at this time. We were able to cover our out-of-pocket costs, insurance, and some minor repairs but we did not have any extra additional funds generated from use last year for any ongoing depreciation, maintenance, escrow, or management or income last year. This tells us that we still need to work on the business model quite a bit. It processed over 2500 birds, it had two major users, and 14 people came to a community-processing day. We estimate about $56,000 of value came out of the unit.

We learned that this unit became much larger and more unwieldy for transport than we anticipated. It requires a dual rear wheel truck with lots of stability and towing power to move it around, which not everyone has. Cleaning up walls, floors, and ceilings is certainly more time consuming, especially because the plucker is permanently mounted in a corner and it’s very hard to get back in that corner to clean up. Moving it on to different farms and different sites, leveling the unit so that the water flows right to the tapered floor drains rather than pooling the water has been a challenge on some farms. In the first year we had a lot of operational kinks to work out, such as the propane delivery system, and other things like that. Anything that needs to be repaired is slightly more expensive because it is all plumbed and wired professionally so things are hidden in the walls and underneath, which is nice, but also requires more skill to get at those pieces.

Some of the benefits of this unit: The equipment was designed for higher capacity throughput so it can do a larger number of birds per hour. The generator allows us to park the unit anywhere as long as there is access to potable water. You can operate it on a parking lot, in the middle of a field, where have you. It is certainly more weather proof, both for operations and equipment longevity. As I mentioned before, the waste management is much easier with one single outlet point. This unit also affords a degree of privacy. We're in pretty urban areas, here in Eastern Massachusetts. With enclosed walls and a relatively innocuous trailer appearance, no one really knows what's going on in there. We have been told and are encouraged to follow up with using this unit under USDA inspection.

On the management side, our big piece of advice if folks are thinking of doing this is to make sure there is a strong market. We were pretty sure there was a strong market for the mobile processing unit. We did multiple market surveys, many people expressed interest in training and came to trainings over the years, and we didn't think we had a lot of competition when we first started out. Over the years, we've found out that despite all of the trainings and interest, folks haven't gone through all the components of regulatory compliance in order to become licensed users in our state to use this unit. Over the four-year pilot project, we had about seven licensed users who have come and gone. But on average, its been about two or three users per unit per year, which wasn't what we anticipated when we started this project. I think the factors related to that are the regulatory hurdles, the transportation costs, and the fact that these models have been largely do-it-yourself. Folks have to want to do this and have to cover their own labor and figure out if this is the piece of the puzzle that they want to take on. 

The other management piece is whether you have a viable business plan. Is the income that you can generate from the users, a good market and strong demand, enough to pay for upkeep, depreciation and management fees? And/or is your goal to save enough funding to replicate this into the future and build additional units moving forward?

One of our struggles has been providing unit oversight. We do a lot of producer/processor training, which is required for food safety training for our state. But we've been operating on this do-it-yourself model and we haven't built the management piece into our business model because, again, it adds significantly to the cost. It is tricky to build in a shared-use management policy; not having someone there to manage and monitor the equipment. Over the years we've learned that things that travel with the unit don't always continue in transit and disappear from inventory. People have different levels of cleanliness standards and how they return the unit. When things break, we've seen a lot of, "It's not my fault. I didn't do it." It's really up to the manager of the unit to figure out if this is something you can charge the users for if they deny responsibility. How do you build that into the system?

As part of this project, we have developed both a poultry production profit calculator and a processing comparison calculator, which are both on our website if folks are interested in looking at those. We put those together to help the future users figure out if poultry is a profitable enterprise for them to get into. When they're looking at their legal processing options, what is a better deal for them: to either use the MPPU with its cost structure or to hire out that service to a USDA facility in the region (which is now an option as of July 2010).

We plan to address some of these challenges in the future. The Unit One Open Air Unit now has a unit manager and licensed trained crew option to travel with the unit. With the open-air situation, they've wanted to limit that unit to a much smaller travel radius to overcome some of the issues with long-distance transport. They're looking at doing some equipment fixes to deal with some of the exposure and propane issues on the scalder and other things. For Unit Two, the enclosed unit, we are looking at new management models, such as docking stations or neutral sites where we can better serve some of the smaller scale producers for whom it may not make economic sense to haul a larger unit to their farm. Trying to put the unit in a central location and having a licensed trained crew onsite for smaller producers is something we are hoping will increase our numbers. We're hoping to continue to attract greater numbers of on-farm do-it-yourself rentals who have larger numbers of birds. We are looking into buying a dedicated tow truck to move the unit around and again some USDA inspection possibilities if it's potentially located at a docking station or a neutral site.

Sam Anderson is our MPPU and livestock coordinator and who is always available to answer questions as well as myself. You can find more information on our website. I want to say a quick thank you to Northeast SARE and the Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Project for our training and education funding toward this project.

Q&A with Jennifer

Q: I assume that the poultry processed in these units can only be sold within Massachusetts, correct?

Jennifer: That is correct.

Q: How about capacity per hour? Wouldn't that depend on the crew?

Jennifer: Absolutely. The equipment is rated for 300-400 birds an hour, but it really depends on the skills of the person on the kill side and then your visceration team.

Q: On the legal status, all these producers are operating under a producer-grower exemption? Is that a 20,000 bird or a 1,000 bird exemption they're using with this unit?

Jennifer: Correct, all producers are operating under a producer-grower exemption. We have people operating under both exemptions. The bigger scale producers in our state are hovering around the 1,000 birds or less. They're definitely under the 20,000, but only a handful are under the 1,000.

Q: Your regulatory authorities have been okay with these producers sharing this unit as long as it comes onto their farm and they do the processing?

Jennifer: Correct. As you'll hear later from the Island Grown folks, theirs is a slightly different model with a trained crew that travels around with the unit. In Massachusetts, the state has authorized there to be a single license holder as long as they're part of the trained crew. In effect, the producer is still operating under the producer/processor exemption but they are hiring the licensed trained crew. That's been really helpful for folks who have been struggling with paying the $225 licensing fee per producer/processor. If you have the option to hire somebody who's already got that on board, then you're really just paying them a per bird fee or hourly rate, whatever the person may be charging.

 

We will now move on to Angela Caperelli. Angela is the aquaculture marketing specialist and the state Aquaculture Coordinator at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. As a core member of the mobile processing unit management team, she developed all the HACCP plans and training programs for mobile unit managers and she has a Master's in Aquaculture from Kentucky State University and a long history with this project.

Presentation by Angela Caperelli

We started out in 1998 developing this unit. In Kentucky we found that there were several small farmers producing poultry that they could not justify bringing to a market. We have a few licensed USDA inspected poultry processers in the state, however, logistics was very limiting. We wanted to do away with that bottleneck for small producers. They were limited to selling whole live products at that point. One of our main objectives was to make sure that anything that hit the market was safe and wouldn't create any kind of health issue.

We came up with our MPU plan. The first part of that plan was to bring together experts in the field. We found that one of the biggest issues was that we needed the exemption to the USDA onsite inspector, like everyone would. What we did in Kentucky was a little bit different because we got an exception to the exemption. As in Massachusetts, where each processor has their own license and it goes to their farm, we have docking stations. There are two in the state and one planned, so we have the farmers bring their product to the mobile processing unit, which is tied into a docking station. Therefore, we needed an exception to the exemption, which USDA granted us back then. I don't know if they would grant it again. But it works for us.

The state inspectors do come whenever they want. They used to come to every single processing to make sure that things were done right and now we find that they just spot-check us. One of our biggest issues was that they run all the same tests and everything that they would for a commercial processing facility. We were able to hire a manager for the MPU as a half-time Kentucky State University employee.

Another issue was bringing together experts for collaboration. Our management team consists of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, our Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Heifer International (which was actually the original funder), Fortis Project, Partners for Family Farms (which is our non-profit, third-party fiscal agent), Kentucky State University (which has a research farm), University of Kentucky (which has the poultry expert), Berea College (which works very closely with small farmers), and Morehead State University (which also works with small farmers and is a recipient of a docking station).

Our team members really made the difference. That's why our Department of Health and the USDA were pretty confident that we could pull this team together and make it work. Part of that was also in the development of our training manual, which I'll get into in a little bit.

Again, our exemption to on-site inspection and also our exception to the exemption for the 20,000 bird rule, which was not necessarily being processed on an individual farm.

We have the same type of work areas in our unit. We have kill-tanks, killing cones; all of our stuff is done because it's under a docking station. It's an enclosed building. Even though the unit is still mobile, when it is tied into a docking station, it has cover. So the scalder and the plucker are held separate and outside the actual processing unit. In that unit, it's able to keep a lot cleaner. Although it's still considered a clean room outside the unit because it's enclosed…it's an "enclosed enclosed" if that makes any sense. But it's worked very efficiently for poultry processors.

In the last year we got the ability to also process rabbits, which USDA has allowed us to do. But this unit is also very mobile; we can take it anywhere in the state under FDA and process seafood. Some of our aquaculture people are using it today. We can process any of the seafood we grow here at the pond side with those same leveling issues as Jennifer described in Massachusetts. We demand a 220v outlet, potable water, and a gravel, level pad to take care of all the pooling. We also work with the state under ALA composting rules and regulations for offal. Our packing areas have a scale that gives a nice little label with weight, product, and safe handling so it's ready to go right into market.

In order to use the mobile processing unit, you must go through a one-day training program every two years. Any of those trained individuals that pass the test become what we call a facility manager. So they can bring their product to the mobile processing unit while it's tied to a docking station and process their birds. The management team evaluates the training program every year and makes any changes with the USDA or FDA that need to be implemented.

Last year, 2011, we had 13 users. We've probably trained over 75 facility managers that could potentially use the unit. We had close to 1500 birds processed and 240 rabbits.

For chickens, we charge $75 per day for the first 50 birds and then it's $0.75 per bird after that. For fish or aquaculture products, it's $75 per day. If it takes over an 8-hour shift, we charge $10 an hour for the manager that travels with the unit. Turkeys are $75 per day for the first 15 birds and then $3.50 each after that. And rabbits are $50 per day for the first 50 birds and then $0.50 after that. It's a sliding scale and it depends on the product that they are processing. That's all within our training manual.

We've developed two training manuals, one is for the poultry (chicken, turkeys, and chuckers) and seafood, and now we've just in the past two months have had a rabbit manual approved. Every manual has all the necessity parts, HACCP plans, HACCP logs for each species, any kind of ramifications and any kind of control, thermometer calibration, and so on. With that manual, a person is ready to go. Any log they need, any environmental standard, affidavits that they would need, they're all in that manual to be replicated as they process.

In Kentucky, we identified the need for these farmers. We brought together the right people, and that was critical to have a statewide unit. We found several producers that couldn't justify traveling halfway across the state with small amounts of product. We were able to help them grow. For some farmers, we've actually worked it out of a job because they are at the level of production that it justifies bringing to the USDA-inspected facility, which allows them to sell out of state to a broader market base. But our key thing is to make sure that only product that is safe gets on the market.

Our suggestions are, to get started, to bring the right people together and there's a list: experts in the field of research, experts in the field of production, and also all your state entities that need to have a say in all the regulatory issues.

Q&A with Angela

Q: This is one of the first mobile poultry processing units that was ever put together, correct?

Angela: Yes.

Q: You've been through quite a lot of figuring it out, testing it, seeing how it works; if somebody came to you now and said, "We'd really like to put one of those together for our state" what would you say?


Angela: We've had several states actually come to Kentucky and our unit has traveled to some of the SARE conferences as models for people to look at. I'd say, "Bring it on." It really helps small producers, but the key is to bring that core group together that has a say in it, including producers; how it's going to work for them? But we never thought that this would be a long-term option for processors as they grew.  We do have small producers that are happy at their 500 birds, so it works fine for them. They schedule it and some of them have every Monday during production season to process. It's worked really, really well.

Some of the key issues that we did find were…ours is more of a gooseneck trailer…where our hot water heater…in the state of Kentucky they will not allow us to do propane, so we have to tie into that 220v for our hot water heater and also air conditioning. So that has to be in our "docking station". Even when it goes off for fish, it has to be capable anywhere on the farm that they're going to park it.

We did have producers pick up the unit and bring it to their farm and run it and bring it back. However, we had some issues such as cleanliness, how they returned it, the liability insurance that we required for those farmers to take it with their own vehicle, did they have a strong enough vehicle, was it going to be taken care of well, also because it's an aluminum base floor, you cannot use certain chemicals to clean it. We really felt that after a couple years, it was just getting too worn out so it justified hiring a part-time manager that goes with it, will stay with it. The manager is not responsible for helping to process, however does kind of oversee, make sure that the facility manager covers all the bases in the HACCP training manual and also it's cleaned properly with the proper chemicals. With aluminum, you can't use bleach. Everyone thinks, "Oh, we'll just bleach it." Our floor is pitted now so we have to use other cleaning products. Those are some little things that came out of the experience.

Q: Just to clarify, that funding for the overseer, where does that come from? Is it completely covered in rental costs? Or is this something self-sustaining?

Angela: It's not 100% self-sustaining. We do get some funding from Kentucky State University, which now owns the unit. We found through legal and liability issues that it was easier to have a state entity own it. It's also easier to manage during poultry; getting it and tying it into those docking stations properly.

Q: One quick question came in earlier: where do you source caviar in Kentucky?


Angela: {Laughs} We are processing caviar today, actually. We have a growing paddlefish industry, which is the Kentucky paddlefish caviar.

Q: What range of batch sizes are farmers usually processing on your mobile unit? How many birds a day?

Angela: It all depends on the crew. We have some guys that have been doing it for a while (guys and women) and they can process 200-250 birds. But that's a good crew and that's a long day.

Q: Thanks a lot, Angela. It was a great presentation and good to see that that unit is still going.

Angela: It is and it's been great. It's really helped the seafood industry too because that comes under FDA, so we can sell out of state with FDA because it's national, we don't require an inspector.

Q: You're not limited to the state…


Angela: Correct. That might be something I would talk to Massachusetts about, your outgoing Commissioner, Scott Soares, but those are potential opportunities. What we do when people ask us about it, like I said, we've traveled around the country showing people. We've probably been modeled by several states. We are very happy to share our information, we treat it as if you were taking a training course and we'll send you a training manual with the plans and all that stuff. We are not keepers of all this technology. {Laughs} It's pretty simple. This unit I know can be built cheaper; we probably spent close to $100,000 on it. But we refurbished a gooseneck trailer and there are other ways that it can be done a lot cheaper and a lot more efficient as we learned how to go.


Q: That's good to know, I appreciate you mentioning the price.

 

Moving along to our next presenter, Jefferson Monroe. Jefferson Monroe is a poultry farmer on Martha's Vineyard and after studying philosophy he found his calling: a Senegalese shaman told him to work with the earth. This season he's been raising more than 4,000 chickens and 300 turkeys and he helped license Island Grown Initiative's mobile poultry unit and he is currently helping to design a cooperatively-owned slaughter-house on Martha's Vineyard. Take it away, Jefferson.

Presentation by Jefferson Monroe

Great, thanks, Arion. IGI [Island Grown Initiative] is a local non-profit. It was started in 2007 and it considers itself a group of eaters from the community. It's farmers, food advocates, grocers, etc. When IGI was interested in helping out the farming community, they went to the local farmers and asked them what they were looking for in terms of infrastructure. Farmers said, "We want a four-legged slaughter-house." When IGI looked into the cost and the effort required, it looked like it was going to be too big of a jump for an organization that was just getting started. Because the poultry exemption is a much easier hurdle (or so it seemed at the time), we decided to work in that direction. IGI saw poultry processing as bridging infrastructure. Both in terms of the unit's use by farmers as well as for IGI as an organization to move toward constructing a four-legged slaughter facility.

In terms of solving these problems, it's been mostly a success. Several farmers have upgraded to their own processing facilities, which is a success for us. Some have continued to use the unit because they find it cost-effective and continued raising birds. On the other hand, IGI as an organization is just now completing a USDA visibility statement, which is the precursor to applying for funding and our grant of inspection.

IGI's initial partner was with NSARE and most of that money was spent for training and outreach. As we are on an island, Martha's Vineyard is somewhat of a unique market in that people could not drive farther if they wanted to get their birds processed, they had to take a ferry. The ferry costs, round-trip, anywhere from $100-150 depending on the season. That combined with the added time was a significant hurdle for most producers.

The original cost of the unit was about $11,000. It rides around on a little trailer. Over the three years it took us to get the unit in the pilot program that Jennifer Hashley spoke about, we spent another $4,000 in equipment. Most of that was spent on a sink as well as some barriers and a few other things. The money from NSARE was about $9,300 and that was for training crew, outreach to the community, and just general "get things going".

Just to show you what it looks like when it's set up, this is the kill side [see slide]. There are some wood chips underneath this six-kill cone rotary cone. We also use the Poultryman scalder and Poultryman plucker. The wood chips that are sitting beneath both the plucker and scalder act as a biofilter. It allows us to avoid totally capturing all of our wastewater.

This is a picture of the clean side [see slide], which has tents similar to the NESFI unit as a way of covering our trailer. On the clean side, the sink acts as a "do not pass" zone for dirty people going from the kill side to the clean side. We have ample amounts of ice and things of that sort. 


In terms of the cost to operate our unit, we have a monthly coordinator that is also the lead person on the unit in terms of using our training crew. The model we use has the farmer rent the equipment from Island Grown Initiative and the farmer hires a trained crew. That helps to lower the liability costs for IGI and to get the multiple producer grant similar to what Jennifer was speaking to earlier.

The monthly coordinator stipend is $300 and that's for about eight months out of the year. Each processing costs between $50-$75 for disposable supplies such as propane and bags, things of that sort. We have a yearly maintenance budget of between $500-$1,000. We cover those costs generally through tiered processing. For people processing fewer than 30 birds, it's $200 total cost. For people processing fewer than 50 birds, it's $250. For licensed processors processing fewer than 50 birds, it's a $65 rental fee from Island Grown Initiative and then there's a $4.25 per bird cost to have a crew show up, take your live birds and deliver them to you totally vacuum sealed and ready to be sold. For the larger processors, which are 50-125 birds in a day, we charge $135 for rental.

In terms of covering our costs, we found that with about 50 processings a season, we can cover our yearly costs. When we get closer to 65-75 processings, we can also cover our replacement costs with a 12-year depreciation schedule. The depreciation schedule does not include the maintenance budget. Last year we had 75 processings, but this year we're expecting closer to 40 because several of our larger producers have graduated out of this unit into using their own equipment.

In terms of our total number of poultry processed, last year we processed about 7,500 birds. In all total, we think that since we got this unit, we've processed 17,000 chickens. We had six commercial growers initially and now we have only four. We have about 30 folks in the community who raise birds just for their own consumption.

We have learned that size appropriateness was very important. Understanding the regulations and not being constrained to some of the models being used was very important to us. We did not want to have a unit that relied upon fixing it to a trailer because we saw that that became unwieldy.

In dealing with regulators, they had major concerns with having a unit with the level of flexibility that we have. We have overcome that through having a trained crew that is in contact with our Department of Health. Finally, we do all kinds of monitoring. This is what it looks like when folks are processing [see slide]. As you can see, all the viscera is collected underneath the processing table and we have a good time when we are doing it. There is an exemption right on the label right there.

Q&A with Jefferson

Q: Who is providing your liability insurance?

Jefferson: Just a local insurance provider. Because the equipment is rented by the farmer, our liability just covers transport of the equipment. The farmers have to get their own liability insurance to cover the product that it processed. Does that makes sense?

Q: Yes, Angela also noted that farmers are responsible for their own liability on their farm policy. Other larger markets require more insurance.

Jefferson: Exactly.

Q: It's really kind of amazing, in the same way that Washington State seems to be the center of the world in terms of red meat mobile slaughter units. Massachusetts seems to be the center of the world in terms of poultry units.

Jefferson: We're just trying to get it done. People like chicken up here.

 

Our next speaker, Chelsea Bardot Lewis is Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets. She coordinates the Vermont Meat Process Market Group and the New England Beef Institution Initiative. She's been working on partnership opportunities between meat producers and processors in Vermont and New England. She has a Master's in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from Tufts University. Take it away, Chelsea.

Presentation by Chelsea Bardot Lewis

I am on the marketing and development side and not on the meat inspection side. I try to learn a lot about the mechanics and regulations but definitely don't have a lot of detailed information about exactly how the unit is outfitted and how the operations work, but I will jump in now with some history.

The planning for this unit commenced in 2006. There was a producer survey that found that 42 operations in Vermont were processing about 7000 birds per year. At that time there were no inspected facilities for poultry producers to take their birds. The goal was to help poultry producers access new and larger markets while protecting public health and food safety.

The partners on this project were the Agency of Agriculture, the Department of Health, a group of producers and food service and restaurant managers who were really driving the demand. It was funded by the Vermont Legislature and the Castanea Foundation. Folks here in our Meat Inspection Division and in the Ag Resource Management Division signed off on the unit. The equipment came from Cornerstone Farm Ventures in New York. It was built by Brothers Body Equipment in Ohio.

Everything cost more than we had originally thought. The total cost to design, build, and ship here from Ohio was $93,000. That was over $8,000 more than we had originally estimated. Plus there were additional retrofits that were needed once the unit was on the road. The operating expenses were also originally underestimated. The operator ended up having to raise his prices. He actually had to implement a higher mileage fee and a minimum bird number.

As far as we know, this is the only commercially inspected mobile poultry unit in the country. It does have a bathroom and hand washing station right on the unit and there's an office for the inspector. It was continuously inspected. Spring Hill Poultry Processing won the lease for the unit and operated it statewide. He served 40 different producers over the three years of operation. Mostly these producers had chickens. Some had turkeys and then there were a few other miscellaneous species thrown in. He did a few rabbits and a few ducks.

In the first year he did 1,400 birds, 9,800 in the second year. The demand really rose and last year he did 14,600. He operated throughout the state. He did have the option to dock at state fairgrounds but he chose not to do this. There was a cost associated with docking at the fairgrounds and he said this was a cost that he didn't feel like he needed, so he did go directly to each farm. Our meat inspectors provided continuous inspection no matter where he went. Sometimes that posed a little bit of a scheduling problem, but we were able to provide that service.

Springhill Poultry decided not to renew their lease for the 2012 season. They cited long hours and slim revenues as factors in that decision. That goes back to the cost of operating and whether or not these can work as for-profit businesses. After a lot of discussion, we decided that selling the unit was the best way to proceed for a few reasons. First, when we put it out to bid, people weren't exactly busting down the door to operate this thing. We ended up having to go and twist George's arm a little bit to take it on. He did a fantastic job but he decided that he needed more of…he is now working at a different fixed facility in the state on more of a 8-5 type job. Also, as Jennifer mentioned in 2009, a privately owned fixed facility was opened in Westminster, Vermont, and that raised questions of competing with the private sector. Lastly, owning and renting this type of specialized equipment, I would say, isn't necessarily what the state does best. So we decided to sell the unit.

It was purchased by Tangletown Farm in Middlesex. They are fantastic. They are now working with the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program to develop a financially viable model for continuing to use this unit. What they're looking at right now is whether it will continue to be mobile or whether it will be fixed and how can they make this work for their farm. Ideally they would love to help process birds for other farms as well and I think that they've taken a really great approach and are working through the business planning and the feasibility plan before they jump in to the season.

We started this project four years ago to address the lack of past and present lack of processing options for Vermont producers. To assess whether we have addressed the problem, we can say that this really did allow poultry producers to scale up and access new markets. Another problem, and I didn't know this history until I actually started to prepare for this webinar, is that safety and animal welfare were really a motivating factor as well. There was a concern that as more small-scale producers started popping up throughout the state, and especially if they had to truck their animals long distances, not having the proper equipment for transport was a concern, both for human and animal safety as the birds were being trucked to slaughter. To the question about mobile vs. stationary and Jennifer's point about NIMBY, I think what we see more in Vermont is what we've been calling "IMBY: In My Backyard". All producers really want processing in their backyard. There don't seem to be the "NIMBY" issues as much in our more rural state. Producers definitely liked having it come right to them.

Sunshine Acres Farm was a user of this unit. They went from 50 birds per year up to 800 birds per year in the three seasons that they used it. They were able to sell to grocery co-ops and restaurants in Northern Vermont. Now that the unit is in this transition phase, they are at a little bit of a difficult point. It is hard to hear from producers trying to figure out what to do now. This farm has said that they're interested in working with other producers to explore the construction of another facility, be it fixed or mobile.

On the logistical side, we have learned the importance of establishing a potable water system before the unit arrives. We ran into a lot of trouble with people's well water on their farm. They had to get it tested before the unit showed up and sometimes that didn’t happened and so George would get out there and wouldn't be able to process. That was a problem. Having a back-up plan for inedibles if composting wasn't available or there wasn't a docking site option. In Vermont we do have accepted agricultural practices rules, which is on-farm wastewater management requirements. Depending on the state that would definitely be a consideration. We also learned that producers were willing to drive birds to regional docking sites. There is one docking site in central Vermont. The unit was stationed there a considerable amount of time. Transport wasn't an insurmountable barrier for producers.

In terms of strategy and policy, we definitely learned that market demand exists. Producers were really eager to supply that demand. We found that the mark of inspection really did increase market share and consumer confidence for the producers that were able to have an inspected product coming out of the unit. We had lots of really interesting conversations about the role of government via private sector. We don't want to be in a position where we're competing with the private sector. I think that there are some things that the government is doing that are better than others. I think, at least this administration believes that private ownership and lease of this type of equipment isn't potentially one of our comparative advantages. Also the importance of strong feasibility and business planning both for processors and for producers who are thinking about scaling up production or putting processing in place. 

Q&A with Chelsea

Q: Going back to the Sunshine case study, if they're just up to 800 birds, why have they grown out of the unit?

Chelsea: They would love to continue to use the unit. Right now we're just waiting for Tangletown to go through their feasibility and business planning and see what model works best for them. For the case of Sunshine Acres, they are only 800 birds so they could slaughter under the 1,000 bird exemption. The co-op is one of their major market outlets. So they do need to have an inspected product. I think that they're trying to figure out what they're going to do for this season. We're trying to work with Tangletown farm to see what makes sense for them and for the industry.


Q: Has the 100-bird minimum excluded any small producers trying to get into the industry?

Chelsea: I think George said that he had a 100-bird minimum, but I've certainly heard of him going out to places that had fewer than that, especially if it was on his way somewhere else. If he had to drive four hours to get somewhere with 20 birds, he would probably say no and try to find a price that would make it worth his while but it was just a matter of making it worth it financially for him to get somewhere. I didn't hear of too many people who were unable to access his services. I think that people with 100 birds mostly were just using the on farm exception.

Q: Has any mobile poultry unit looked into air chilling?

Chelsea: Not that I know of, but again I wasn't really involved in the conversations around the design and not so much around the operation either. I'm not sure.


Angela (in Kentucky): I think carrying all that gas that it would require on a mobile unit was a limiting issue.

Lauren: Sam's comment here, "It could be a space problem and a power draw and it would be very difficult."


 

We're going to move on to Jan Tusick, the director of Mission Mountain Market Food Enterprise Center, which is part of Lake County Community Development Corporation. It's a food and agricultural development center. For 15 years, she's facilitated business and market development, partnerships, capitalization, and more food farming and food system ventures in her state of Montana. She is also a sheep farmer.

Presentation by Jan Tusick

I'd like to start by just saying I'm representing Montana Poultry Growers Co-op in this presentation. Our center has worked with the co-op since inception. I feel they've had lots of lessons learned so we'll just begin with some of them.

We are a collaborative project. We collaborated with the Farms for Families, which is a non-profit in Livingston, and the Growers Co-op. Our funding partners are USDA, Toledo Foundation, USDA Risk Management, and the Montana Department of Agriculture's Growth through Agriculture Program.

We are at a stage of assessment in our processing unit. We were part of a webinar (October 14, 2009) when the unit was initially built so there is some history there if you wanted to go back and see that. [Link to the webinar]

The Growers Co-op was incorporated in 2006. It is a statewide co-op with approximately 21 members right now. One thing that's important is the co-op’s two functions. One is to have shared-use, small-scale equipment that small farmers can use on their farms to process the birds for their use and friends and family that would not be under a regulatory inspection or licensing. The other use is of course the mobile unit, which we'll talk about today. Probably 85-90% of the growers are small-scale, just using the small shared-use equipment. As you can see on the map of Montana, we are a big state with a very small population, so I think it's a very important foundation to understand just how far spread the numbers are in this state, which ended up being quite challenging in the use of this unit.

It it is an open co-op organized to help producers meet their processing needs. There were several members that were interested in looking at doing bird processing to enter a retail/wholesale marketplace so that was when the members came together and expressed interest in our center. Farms and Family came in to help develop the project and get the funding behind it. There were numerous marketplaces had been asking for birds, particularly organically-raised birds or pasture-raised birds. There seemed to be a market niche there that would be an opportunity for local growers.

This is a picture of the unit [see slides]. I don't have a lot of internal pictures that are very good, but you can see it's two separate units: a trailer and then there's a truck with a van-like backing that is the evisceration station. The back unit is the kill station. We designed it this way because we felt we could control the concerns about flies, etc., from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Livestock in the evisceration stage by having a closed unit in the front. That's just some of the things that came up in the design here. It used to be an old snowmobile trailer, I think. This was a second-use piece when it was bought. With that in mind, I think we would have been better off with a from-the-ground-up design. It would have probably been more effective.

I have our fixed costs on the slide; again the truck and trailer were used units. The trailer was actually a trailer that was being designed by an Eastern Montana producer who wanted to do poultry on-farm, got into it and actually discovered that they were totally unprepared for the regulatory requirements that the state was going to mandate for licensing. He abandoned his project and we went ahead and picked up his trailer.

In hindsight I think we would have been better off designing a trailer that would have been more effective for movement. Again, going back to how big this state is, one of the biggest challenges we faced was moving the unit from the farms that were going to use it. The insurance was strictly to cover the unit on the road. We depended on the producers to have on-farm liability insurance to cover the costs of processing their birds. Cost of transportation was very expensive and now it is even more so with the cost of gas. 

We processed approximately 3,000 birds in the last year. It was mainly spread among four producers. The producers went through a training that we held. The MPU training and development of an on-farm plan was required to be able to use the unit. The training program was assisted through USDA Risk Management. We held about 10 trainings across the state for two years. Most of the people who attended the training were very small producers. That became apparent in the needs assessment because we were seeing that people were thinking about producing 200 birds on average. That's a really small-scale production for this state, especially if you're expecting to go into marketplaces because you have to transport those birds. There's a lot of distance. You also have a competitor out there, we have Hutterite farmers in the state of Montana. They do large scale. They operate under the 20,000-bird exemption with some pretty efficient production. Their costs per bird are probably about $.80 or $.90 per bird versus the small scale producers looking at much higher costs.

We did charge for using the unit. It was $1.75 per bird. We felt we had to charge that because of our repair costs. Each year we had numerous repair costs. We attribute that to the poor design of the unit, which we if we were to re-do it again we would not have used that kind of design. It had to travel long distances. Equipment rattled loose. Piping broke. We had numerous producers that used it, didn't effectively clean it out. Because Montana gets cold and they did not effectively drain the unit, we had freezing problems. All those compiled and it ended up being expensive to keep the unit maintained on an annual basis. Again, we talked about the cost of gas, which attributed to really limiting the effectiveness of the unit.

One of the challenges is the small-scale production. We had very few producers that were going to get near 1,000 birds. We had one producer that did 1,500 birds. But he ended up cutting back tremendously because of the high cost of production. Farms for Family partnered with our center the year to conduct a phone survey. The biggest barrier for these producers is the feed cost. The average cost (and this is not an organic bird) is $2.30/lb. They're buying the feed by the 50 lb. bags. Very few are buying bulk and even then it was prohibitive. We don't have a lot of local feed sources in the state of Montana except for Big Sky Organic. Again, that's an organic feed supply. The organic producers were looking at having to sell their birds at about $4.30 - $4.50/lb. which is a huge barrier in the marketplace. People are hesitant to buy a $20 bird to feed their family. So those were factors that added up: the feed costs and the long distance of travel.

We still see regulation as a huge barrier. In the state of Montana, we do have our own state Department of Livestock. We also have the Department of Health and Human Services and each county has a county sanitarian that was involved in licensing of each farmer who wanted to sell birds. Each county sanitarian literally, I think I can honestly say, has their own rules. It was very difficult to have the unit inspected and licensed in one county, it would go over that county line into another county and it would have to start all over. Again, with a big state, I think we have 54 counties, it is continuing to be a challenge. We tried to get the unit licensed in Missoula County and basically the county sanitarian said, "Not in my county." It's that type of resistance and barriers that are going to continue to be something we have to deal with.

The future plans for the co-op, based on the survey, is to explore this exemption that the Kentucky unit is under. How did you say it? We always call it the "exemption to the exemption". I'm hoping that that isn't such a challenge after Angela's presentation. But because of the cost of labor, the low production levels that we have in this state, we're thinking that if there could be some docking stations and people could pool their birds, then we might be able to offer some opportunity to reach some markets.

We would also like to explore whether the co-op could purchase feed because of the nature of the group of producers, they are in a cooperative, they meet annually, there is interest from members to go ahead and start looking at other ways they can work together to start addressing some of these challenges. Purchasing chicks could also be done in a cooperative manner.

We feel we need to do more education to address this lack of understanding of the existing exemptions, and the fact that the state of Montana has adopted all the federal exemptions. How we get that information to the local level so there isn't such a barrier to those producers having to go through this tyranny of regulations? First they have to go to the state, then they have to get their label approved, then they have to go to their local county sanitarian and get their approval, and it can go on. Basically we've recommended to producers: plan on a year to get through the regulatory process. We've also emphasized with producers to have a farm plan, which our training manual helps them outline and put together.

Those are the things that I think we are looking at as next steps. We are going to be having a meeting in about a month to discuss the results of the survey and then just make some decisions about how the unit will be moving forward.

Q&A with Jan

Q: Wow, all the counties have different rules. Can't the state do anything about that?

Jan: {Laughing} In our original organizational process getting the unit licensed, we had numerous meetings with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Livestock. This is where we asked them to sign off on our training manual, which they all did. They felt it was a good training process and every producer had to go through the training to use the unit. But then when you got to that local level; that is the bottleneck. At the local level, the county sanitarian is operating as a Department of Health and Human Services representative, but that person is a county employee. Numerous counties had different water regulations and they had different interpretations. It is very interesting how broad the interpretation can be on numerous fronts from farmers markets to wholesale/retail food processing.

Then you throw in processing chickens on farms and you get a little bit of…I'll say hysteria happening.
We were hoping the farm plans would mitigate that. It's going to take some real proactive education and one-on-one meetings at each local level to make this (regulatory-wise) work.


Q: And it sounds likes its going to need the farmers that really want to use it in those counties really engaging…


Jan: Right. I have to say we have had some issues where we've had some farmers say, "I want to use the mobile unit." They call us a month ahead of time, and we say, "Whoa. You haven't done a training and you don't have a farm plan. Do not go into that county sanitarian and just announce you're going to be killing birds on your farm." You have to be prepared. You have to have a plan to be effective.

Q: Why can't the Montana unit be state inspected? Montana has state inspection for poultry or just red meat?

Jan: The state of Montana will recognize the federal exemption in that they will license the unit under a quarterly exemption.

Q: We understand that. The state of Montana does have a state equal-to-inspection program for red meat.

Jan: Right. They do. There are no state-inspected facilities except for one owned by one producer. He's an Amish farmer and he processes his own birds. They have to process their own birds.

Q: Is there any annual meeting where all those sanitarians get together under a state umbrella and could you get on their agenda to either give you enough information that would be prohibitive in each county so you can put that in your training manual?

Jan: We did go to the county sanitarians annual meeting two years ago, had the mobile unit there and tried to answer all the questions that they had. If Nancy Matheson is still on the line, Nancy can talk to this also, that it's extremely challenging to get the county sanitarians on one page. We see that as an area we're going to have to do more work on if this unit is going to be successful and really meet the needs of some producers that want to go into a retail marketplace.

Q: Does regulation affect the actual technology of the units? If the regulations were more flexible, could construction costs be different?

Chelsea: Absolutely. I guess the most obvious thing in Vermont with our unit being commercially inspected is that we did have to install the office and the bathroom on the unit. That obviously was an additional cost.

Jennifer: In Massachusetts, we're required to have two hot water hand washing sinks for both sides and the barrier, a backflow prevention device, certain kinds of schedule PVC plumbing to meet our state plumbing code guidelines. There were multiple things that they weren't clear on upfront. Once they saw the prototype unit, they wanted us to modify and change. One of the challenges we've been facing right now is that the state wants to look at these new on-farm facilities that I see coming out of this project as a success, but now more people who have had some parts of the equipment or assembling on farm processing facilities and the state's looking at that on a case-by-case basis. We've been unable to glean best practices or requirements since it's becoming more dispersed in terms of number of people building their own on farm facilities. They haven't presented any clear guidelines on what these facilities have to look like other than the general framework.

Arion: One of the things that I think is great for NMPAN and folks on this webinar is to see what's been accomplished elsewhere. Certainly Chelsea used an example from Vermont as a great point how they had to put a restroom in and an inspector's office, whereas some mobile red meat units have been very successful by saying, "Look, here's the lockbox, for your inspection vans," and the inspector can use the truck that they drive out for the office and they can use the same restroom on the farm that everybody else would use. In the Denver district of USDA FSIS this has been acceptable for 10 years now. Certainly seeing what other people have done so we don't have to jump through the extra hoops…


Chelsea: In Vermont, our state inspection has also said that they would be able to use a farm bathroom as long as it wasn't in the living portion of the house. That's an option here as well.

Q: We're talking a lot about the different regulations and throughout the webinar folks have talked about funding sources and what to charge, trying to come up with the right model. Has anybody done any research into market prices for birds processed at a mobile unit vs. on-farm processing? In a less regulated, perhaps in a 1,000 bird exemption, there are always trade-offs. Any thoughts from our speakers about that?

Jennifer: I guess I would say that the market price is almost irrelevant when demand outstrips supply in some cases. I think the individual business model in that case is obviously more profitable if you're not complying with all the requirements of licensing and regulation; if you're just doing it on farm and direct and no one is watching over your shoulder. But that's a pretty (in my opinion) short-term business strategy because at some point, you may come up on the radar and have to change your pricing structure to meet the requirements of the regulations.

But I think we have a lot of lack of enforcement happening and so there's still a lot of people definitely flying under the radar with poultry processing who are selling to direct markets. I think now that this mobile processing in Massachusetts has gotten greater awareness, a lot of the farmers’ markets are now starting to question if there is local poultry showing up at the markets, "Where are you getting them processed. Do you have a state slaughter license, do you have a USDA stamp of approval, what-have-you?" So that's forcing some producers to follow the plan. But other folks, if you have a CSA or doing whatever you do on your farm, certainly you can command whatever prices the market is willing to bear.

Angela: You're absolutely right. We've seen such a growth in the buy local, slow food movement that in some of those farmer's markets, people get unbelievable prices for birds. Unfortunately, our mobile processing unit cannot be certified organic because of some of the cleaning chemicals that we need to use because of the aluminum pieces. That's something to think about if somebody wanted to do an organic certified. But, yes, our market will pay almost anything. Now as far as direct-to-consumers in that non-oversight processing, if you have an agreement that the buyer already owns that bird, then it's almost like you're processing it as a service because they already own the bird.


Lauren: They don't allow that here in Oregon.


Angela: If you had someone come onto your farm and say, "I want these five birds."


Lauren: That's allowed in Kentucky?

Angela: Well, there's no regulation for it. That person already owns the live animals.

Lauren: I know that in some states, including Oregon, they say that that's not okay, but I think it will be a state-by-state thing.

Q: For Angela (in Kentucky): Because you weren't USDA or state inspected, the bathroom and office regs didn't matter, right?

Angela: From what I understand under my FDA training, that is only required if you have an on-site inspector, which we don't because we're exempt. You do have to have a bathroom facility available to workers, but it does not have to be within the unit.

Jennifer: I was just going to say, to clarify the last point, about some of the poultry producer/processor exemptions. It clearly says that you can only choose one exemption per calendar year. With the model that she just mentioned around doing a custom service for people that own the birds, that would come into conflict. If you're doing custom processing and that's your only business model, that would be one way to do it. If you're also then raising and selling your own birds to other markets, I don't know if that would be in conflict with the different producer/processor exemptions.

Angela: I think those people are doing it, but because they're not putting in for a certified or inspected facility or anything to sell in the open market, then we don't even know they're there.

Angela: There was just a great comment posted by Mr. Boyle Stewart, "It is all about safety." Our priority is to make sure that only safe products get on the market because if someone gets sick, it's going to ruin everybody.

Jennifer: We have that same philosophy here in Massachusetts, which is why we really emphasize producer training to the utmost extent. The minute someone messes up, the industry will be in the toilet for everyone.

Angela: We're pretty strict on quality too. Even though the HACCP and SSOPs and SOPs are all for safety, we really push the quality also and the farmers are getting educated to know that if they put a product out there that's not of the highest quality, it can still be safe, but you're ruining the market for everyone. Everyone is kind of watching each other. It's a nice group that they kind of all watch out for each other.

Jan: I appreciate the ability to see what the other units are doing, especially with the area of the on-site manager and training crews. That is something that I think is really worthwhile exploring because I think it will address some of the issues, not only on the regulatory side but some of the issues on the on-farm usage of the equipment and lowering our costs of repairs.

Lauren: Excellent. I really want to thank all of our speakers for doing a terrific job, for answering our questions and really telling us about their units. I want to thank the audience, the participants for having great questions and for helping each other solve problems. It was excellent.

Arion: Thank you everyone so much. I just want to remind everyone that this webinar was recorded and the slides and the recording will be posted online. You can contact Lauren or myself if you are not already on the NMPAN email list. We'll send out information to that list as soon as it's posted. Thanks again to all of our speakers and as Lauren said, great discussion today. Thanks.

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