Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mobile Abattoirs Support Local Meat Production



Of all local food, the most difficult to source is usually meat, particular grassfed meat. In most of rural North America there is no meat processing infrastructure left. Processing has been consolidated into a small number of very large operations. Small farmers who only process a few animals a month find themselves outside the system often without other options.

One solution, borrowed from North Europeans, is a mobile abattoir, or slaughterhouse. This butcher on wheels travels to the farm where the animals are killed, skinned, and hung in the climate controlled trailer. When the unit is full the carcasses are taken to a processing plant for cutting and packaging. It's the government cerification that makes the difference. Without it, in most jurisdictions, any animal killed on a farm can only be used for personal consumption.

Avoiding the stressful transportation of animals to remote abattoirs is not only a more humane procedure but it also results in a better quality of meat for the consumer.

One of Canada's first experiments with mobile abattoirs started recently in the Peace River district of British Columbia and is designed to help the bison (buffalo) farmers of this northern region. Another was started in the Yukon but has run into some problems that were overlooked in the excitement of setting up the new system. The lack of industrial cooler/freezer space in the territory has resulted in a serious bottleneck in the processing chain. Bison need to be hung and dry aged for up to 3 weeks in controlled conditions and there's just no where to do that in the Yukon.

With demand for grassfed, local and organic meats soaring, the mobile abattoir may be the cheapest and best solution for the small farmer and his customers to enjoy a continuing supply of healthy meat.

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