I have found Food Renegade’s Guest Post: Joel Salatin on Why Local Food Is More Expensive so interesting that I wanted to help expand the conversation to those following Every Kitchen Table.
In addition to being an enlightening post, the breadth of comments, some in direct conflict with Joel Salatin’s guest post, has made it especially intriguing. There is a level of agreement that changing policy will be difficult, but I believe that as long as it doesn’t further tilt the balance of power toward large, industrial food companies, we know what we are up against and can get to work finding opportunities out of the challenges.
For example, in Vermont and several other states, they have implemented mobile slaughterhouses that make it far easier and cheaper for small farms to process meat. I am also aware of one Vermont farm that is considering buying a small slaughterhouse and vertically integrating its operation. They have done the math and figured it will ultimately give them more control over their fate. On a related note, Vermont has also launched a mobile freezing unit that can be used for on-farm quick-freezing of farm produce.
There are many more creative “work-arounds” throughout the land. What we need to do is bubble up the ones that are working, heavily promote them, and get more small farms on more stable ground.
“Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.” -Robert Jarvik (developed artificial heart)
Sounds about right!
Related Information and Links:
I read the Food Renegade post too, found it super engaging, and I love your examples of how to change the paradigm without waiting for legislation, which always seems too dang slow. Mobile slaughterhouses and freezers are ingenious. Thanks for another great post.
YES! This is where the hope is. We have to be the change we are looking for. If enough of us start doing that, it honestly won’t matter what the laws are.
In a sad note, the last I heard the mobile slaughter unit in Vermont was not actually out there and running and I heard that they are trying to sell it. Things are rather confusing right now as Governor Douglas is attempting to cut the entire Vermont Department of Meat Inspection which operates that unit. I am not sure about the freezer unit.
I need to look into this, Walter. I vaguely recall Pete Johnson at Pete’s Greens mentioning something about one of these units.
Do you have any idea what is driving Governor Douglas’ decision?
According to this link:
the unit is not yet in operation. It is just for poultry and I have some doubts about the economics. I looked over the plans for it with the state vet last year while it was under construction but haven’t personally seen it yet. I don’t know of anyone who has used it. At this point the unit is just sitting given the info at the above link and the troubles the state ag people told me they were having with getting someone to run it and the uncertainty in the department’s future due to Douglas.
As to what Douglas is thinking, I believe that he was looking for where he could cut the budget. The Meat Inspection department budget is about $750K but the USDA pays for 76% of that between cost share and VT inspectors getting paid to do USDA work so the reality is the state is getting a state meat inspection program for about $180K which is a very good deal – a lot of benefit for little cost. The department provides inspection for the smaller processors as well as technical assistance to those wanting to expand or startup. They are the mid-way jump to a USDA inspected plant. My guess is Douglas didn’t look at that fact.
I’ve heard from several VT custom and state inspected meat processors who are very worried about what this will do to them. The legislators I spoke with about this said they plan to fight Douglas – they see his move as short sighted. People in the ag department that I’ve spoken with say they would prefer taking what ever pay cut necessary to keep the department. Frankly, that makes a lot of sense. When economic times are tight we tighten our belts and help everyone get through – we don’t fire family.
If Douglas does manage to cut the meat inspection department it will be unfortunate as it would be very hard to get it back up and running again once the knowledge and routine is lost.
I think the global and industrial nature of our food sources is also happening in real time to the production of wine around the world.
As consumers, we all have to choose whether we buy blindly or make the effort to know the background of our purchases.
I believe the effort to know the source of our foods and wines will let us make a choice between industrial foods and wine producers or those made by real people in real places.
The consumption that occurs as a result of small producers will have a positive impact on both the planet and the members of the planet.
In some cases we trust the vendor, like Whole Foods (they may not be as pure as we think).
With wine it is not so easy, unless questions are asked, who made the wine, how much was produced. These questions will lead us to those remaining artisans producing handcrafted wines and foods.
Let’s all make an effort to get to know the people behind our foods and wine.
Ron, what a great addition to the discussion. While I love a good glass of red wine, I wouldn’t know how to begin looking into its origins, etc.
Are there a set of easy to remember questions that someone like me should be armed with that will help make better decisions?
We’ve got mobile slaughterhouses down here in NC, too. The problem there, at least in NC, is that the NCDA limits on-farm slaughter production to 1000 chickens. The federal limit is 10000. Additionally, it is only poultry and rabbits that can be processed on farm. In a state with such a big ag pork industry, it’s difficult to get traction with legislation that enables on-farm slaughter (or even support for creating more independent regional slaughterhouses) for larger livestock.
I’d be interested to see more in the way of innovation for non-meat food, as it seems less complicated for a variety of reasons (less risk therefore lower product liability insurance costs, less travel, less packaging).
Processing meat is such an issue for small sustainable farmers. Carrol County, Georgia is considering the viability of a multispecies unit to process poultry, rabbits, pig, goats, lamb, and beef. It will be very green, too. Our farmer has to transport his beef and pork almost 200 miles to process. Something has to change. We talked about this issue in a recent podcast interview with Rancher Bill Hodge.
Cathy: Thanks for adding this information to the discussion. Regional food infrastructure is such an important piece of what we need to invest in to improve farming and attract more people to farmer. I also wanted to add a link here to your interview with Rancher Bill Hodge. Cheers, Rob
Thanks, Rob, for promoting our Podcast interview here and on Twitter! We just love learning more about sustainable food and sharing that information with our listeners. We’re doing another farmer interview Wednesday. What would we do without farmers? They deserve all of our support.