Our Farm Community Perspective
Okay, so before we get started, I wanted to make sure to mention that you will want to check back here next week to learn about an important offer you will not want to miss!!!
Now, as you know, January 30th I announced that we're going to start butchering our animals raised and sold through Nature's Gourmet Farm website and we are building an on-farm carcass cooler and fabrication room to complement our new freezer!
Since then our newsletters have focused on the perspective of our animals, your farmer, and our customers. Today, is the final perspective on our farm community.
First, we need to think a lot simpler. Think small. Think very small. Think nano-scale. Think just enough capacity to process up to 100 beef and 100 pigs per year. If everything is kept on-farm then the offal, the waste materials from slaughter, can be composted returning the nutrients to the soil. The waste water shrinks down to a small, manageable septic system. There is no transporting of large numbers of animals onto the site. No holding animals in large stockyards as they wait for slaughter. Everything gets simpler and exists on a more easily managed scale. This is what the very small scale traditional neighborhood butcher shops of yor were like. What we need is a new definition: nano-scale processors who do just for their own on-farm slaughter and in some cases a small number of farms around them. Their needs are different than even the very small scale processors. Our butcher shop is ~1,800 square-feet. That's smaller than a single room in most very small scale meat processing plants. With good design it all fits
Just yesterday another beef grass farmer called me interested in what it would take for him to build his own plant! Frankly, as I told him, if you are going to be in this business it is critical to be doing this on your own farm. This is the future.
Unfortunately, right now materials cost are outrageous. For example, OSB board was $18 per sheet when we started in December. That was double the price last summer. This week the price is over $30 per sheet. Lumber & steel are also very expensive.
While our on-farm slaughter and processing is a first in Mississippi that I am aware of - it is very common West of the Mississippi. In fact, I was surprised to learn there are about 80 mobile slaughter trailers in operation in the United States. They operate under many different models. Some simply start a new business to come to farms and slaughter animals. Some locations, multiple farms cooperatively own the slaughter unit. There are numerous possibilities.
And, there is at least one farm in GA and AL that own their own on-farm processing. White Oak Pastures in GA only processes their own animals (like we are going to do) and Marble City Meats processes both their animals and for other farmers as well.
Going back to the conversation with John yesterday, he said he could write a novel on the issues he has had with processing. As I told him if a person plans to operate their farm as a business vs. hobby farming they must take control of processing themselves. And, the mobile slaughter trailer makes this doable. For customers to support buying direct from a farm we must offer a consistent high quality product. Poor processing will ruin a well-raised animal.
When Covid hit last Spring it shut down several (a small percentage) of the national chains processing plants. Very quickly, grocery store shelves were bare. Anyone who had family or friends who raised cows were buying them and taking them to local slaughter plants. Schedules jumped from 4-weeks to 18-months out almost over night. This means our national food supply chain is very fragile.
Bottom line is folks need to make sure their farmer is looking out for the long term sustainability of their farm and is committed to offering a premium product.
Getting the butcher shop up and running is a big push for us. Rest assured that while we are growing our farm some, we are still the same small family farm that cares about the lives of the animals in our hands. The on-farm slaughter and the butcher shop will make everything just that much better, for all the right reasons.
Construction Update: Our contractor is about 2-weeks out from completing our project. YEAH!!! This week, the Fabrication Room was completed except for some molding that will arrive Monday. Below, is a picture of the Fab room looking at the 5-foot exit door towards the freezer. Next week, they should complete the Carcass Cooler Room and hang the BIG doors where the rail system with operate. Then the last week to install the rail system and Southern Pride Smoker.
Remember, be sure to check back with us next week to learn about an important offer you will not want to miss!!!