Training underway for Del. mobile slaughter, butcher unit

Managing Editor

DOVER, Del. (May 24, 2016) — Training began last week for Delaware farmers interested in processing small livestock on their farms through using Delaware State University Small Farms Program’s Mobile Meat Processing Lab.
Work on creating the lab, a slaughter facility and butcher shop mainly for small ruminants, poultry and fish housed in a 40-foot long gooseneck trailer, began in 2011 with a USDA grant to DSU to design and construct a mobile unit for USDA-inspected meat processing with the mission of removing barriers for small-scale livestock farmers from selling value added meat products.
“We’ve really come a long way. We learned a ton from going from a concept to a unit that’s ready to process meat,” said Dennis McIntosh, DSU Extension aquaculture specialist who is leading the project with John Clendaniel, farm management specialist.
Warren Voshell of Middletown, Del., who attended the training with his son Warren Jr., said their interest in using the trailer came out of his children showing goats in 4-H. With the children’s show careers nearing an end, Voshell said rather than sell the animals outright, they wanted to explore value-added sales of the meat. The father and son said they’re still gathering information on costs but see a lot of potential with demand from ethnic groups and people seeking locally raised meat.
“There’s definitely a market there,” Voshell said. “You don’t get rich I don’t think but there’s a better way than what we’re doing now.”
Sandy Urian of Clayton, Del., attended the training for processing broiler chickens she’s about to start raising. She and her husband Mark have a 110-acre grain farm and with help from the DSU mentoring program plan to add hay, beef cattle and poultry to the operation.
“Grain farming is not paying the bills at the scale we’re at, so we need to diversify a little bit,” Sandy Urian said.
With the trailer ready to travel and be used in the state, a second USDA grant is funding the training and farmer education of how to get sites on their farms certified for USDA inspection and proper processing procedures.
“Our purpose now is to show people how to do it properly before just having them do it,” McIntosh said during the first training.
The first training focused on selecting a site on a farm to place the trailer for processing, an overview of the process for getting a USDA grant of inspection for a specific site and a tour of the unit.
Subsequent training workshops, which DSU requires for renting the trailer, will continue through the grant of inspection process and include hands-on work in processing animals and sanitizing the trailer before and after use.
Along with the eight-page basic application, key parts of the grant of inspection process include securing federally approved labels with an inspection number, an approved water source letter and sewage system letter, developing specific written sanitation procedures and a Hazard Analysis for Critical Control Points, or HACCP, plan.
“The steps are straight-forward but the reality is there’s a time lag in getting all the steps in place,” McIntosh said. “They’re simple and easy to talk about but much harder to actually do.”
McIntosh said the Small Farms Program is also pursuing a grant of inspection to use the trailer either on the main campus or at the University’s Hickory Hill Farm near Cheswold, Del., and to be a test case for going through the inspection process.