Monday, April 7, 2014

New Slaughterhouse Opening in North Springfield

 By Adam Sullivan

A new federally-regulated slaughterhouse is opening in southern Vermont.

Vermont has seen a shortage of these facilities, but it's now the animals that are in high demand.

"Fortunately, we have this network of 150 farms already established in the state of Vermont. Farms we have been working with for 30 years plus," said Mark Curran from Black River Meats.

Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont) toured Black River Meat's 43,000 square foot plant Monday morning. Black River started as a produce company, but then purchased this plant which used to house Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Black River Meat employees say it now represents the future of agriculture in the state. Outside a new slaughterhouse is under construction. Black River is partnering with Vermont Packaging House, a newly formed company with meat processing expertise in Minnesota. "They are producing a product that is not only USDA certified but they will also be third party certified which will help them and their products get into marketplaces that have not been penetrated by Vermont products so well yet," said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross.

Slaughterhouses were hard to come by a few years in Vermont, but the state continues to try to change that. The agriculture agency now says there are 32 commercial slaughterhouse and processing plants in a half a dozen counties. "We have doubled the number of processors in the state in the last couple of years and we have moved from a problem of folks growing beef, folks growing hogs, folks growing product in Vermont, and not being able to find processors, to now finally being able to have a more than adequate supply," Gov. Shumlin said.

Officials say this sends a message to farmers that they can begin growing their herds. Black River Meats will be able to process 40 beef cows a day and double that number of pigs or lambs. Right now, the company says its capacity to process meats means they'll have to travel outside Vermont to find the animals. "We are looking to New Hampshire, Maine and New York right now to fill that void, but in an ideal world, five years from now, we would have enough production right here in Vermont," said Curran.

And with humanely slaughtered animals with no growth hormones on the menu, company officials say that iconic Vermont brand could become a hot item in cities around the country. "We are hoping 5 to 10 years from now you are going to be in New York City and see Black River Meat," said Curran.
The company has put more than $9 million into the project but they say they hope to get some of that money back through new market tax credits. If the construction schedule goes as planned, animals will begin being slaughtered here on-site at the facility June 1.

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