Mobile Processing: Responsible Meat from Farm or Field

Keys to enabling a mobile processing plant.  There is nothing in the law that says you can or cannot do mobile processing.  It must however, pass the same regulations as the larger scale fixed plants.  At the end of the day however, the regulations are process based and not results based.  The rules are designed for a plant that is processing 1,000 head per hour, not for 6 per day.

Tank Pinkard operated a mobile processing unit in another state.  Issues he has found here are offals management, cement slabs needed for inspection,  access for 53′ trailers into smaller farms.  The mental model is basically building a cement platform around a mobile unit.  It seems that the TCEQ is identifying problems with processing the offals.

Wild game does not have the restrictions of the USDA.  Broken Arrow harvests wild game and thus remains in the jurisdiction of TDA, not USDA.  Evolving regulations at the federal level make it also hard to remain in compliance. 

Legislators are now calling different sustainable producers asking about Mobile Processing Units as a result of people talking to their representatives.  Taking your kids to see their legislators and making an impression as a mother that cares, works quite well.

Some other states have been more successful with mobile processing units.  Alliances of farmer’s who set up co-operatives – The Lone Star Homegrown Meat Alliance – owning the mobile units, who are set up with concrete pads to make the processing easier, have been keys to success in Washington.  A big issue here still remains on the composting of the offals. Working your way through the bureaucracy is an early part of the critical pathway to success.

To enable a butcher for on farm processing, you need to be a politician.  Even Judith McGeary as a lawyer has trouble understading the rules.  If you want to get pre-approval for a plan, the answer from inspectors is “build it first and then we will tell you”.

For Chris Hughes, his HAACP plan requires a person to sign a document about what he did, a second to sign off that hew saw that happen, and then a third to verify the he saw the second person watch the first person.

A mobile unit will cost between $250k and $500k.  A bricks and mortar unit would cost $150k plus land for even the smallest unit.  Walter Jeffries has been exploring this concept of on-site processing.  Jason Kramer of YonderWay farms is processing his own on-site processing.

A mobile processing unit needs a volume of about 150-200 lambs per week, about 60 cattle.  There is no study available however that demonstrates the impact of MPU’s and their potential impact.  From an economic standpoint, MPU’s are probably not a good discussion.  Smaller scale bricks and mortar plants would be far more feasible.

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