The Local Food Report: Vineyard slaughter

Vineyarders and their Island Grown Initiative continue to astound and impress. We've talked about a lot of what IGI does here before. It brings local food into schools. It helps local Brazilians grow their native food plants. It's brought to life a mobile poultry processing trailer and organized a gleaning program to harvest and donate food that would otherwise be left in the fields. It's a local food and community building powerhouse.

It gets better. In recent years there have been several articles on the void of local slaughterhouses, the rapid rate at which they've disappeared in the past forty years, and the rapid rate at which small farm and livestock numbers are now increasing. People have been talking, but no one has been doing. Until now.

Just over two years ago, IGI got a federal grant to look into the feasibility of building a USDA certified slaughterhouse on the island. The main question was whether a fixed or mobile location would be best—mobile had been so successful with chickens. The verdict settled on fixed, a place to slaughter and butcher four-legged creatures in a humane way with an eye to food safety. The plan is to work it as a coop—a for-profit business that puts the proceeds back into lowering the price of local meat. The construction drawings are done. The next step is to raise $750,000, decide between two potential locations, and then build. 

Richard Andre, the meat coordinator for IGI, the contact there I spoke with and a small farmer himself, says the nine-member board is currently looking into financing options. They're hoping for some donations, but mostly the plan is to look for small local investors who want to loan a big chunk of money at a good interest rate to grow the local food movement.

You can read more on the IGI website, check out a 2010 article about the federal grant in the Vineyard Gazette, check out USDA maps of slaughterhouses nationwide, and see statistics for the number of livestock slaughter plants in New England since 1968 over here.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.