Gathering the Herd: A Vermont Meat Processing Case Study captures lessons learned over a three year period from the Farm to Plate Meat Processing Task Force through interviews conducted by Carrie Abels with members of the task force and industry leaders.
The Meat Processing Task Force within the Farm to Plate Network, active from 2011 to 2013, facilitated greater mutual understanding between livestock farmers and meat processors—two constituencies that had been in minimal contact with each other and were largely unaware of each other’s challenges. Consistent and dedicated leadership and a mandate to include everyone at the table led to efficient task force meetings and a shared sense of mutual purpose.
Through a combination of outreach, education, financial analysis, and the sharing of funding opportunities, the task force provided the private sector with market intelligence and networking opportunities as new processing facilities were being established and existing ones were expanding.
The widely held assumption that Vermont needed more slaughterhouses was discovered by task force members to be flawed; stakeholders instead realized that existing slaughter facilities needed more processing space and that processors were burdened by heavy fall bookings.
The work of the Meat Processing Task Force to address meat processing bottlenecks and develop Vermont’s meat industry helped address several goals of Vermont’s Farm to Plate food system plan: increase Vermont’s food processing and manufacturing capacity, increase availability and consumption of Vermont-produced food by Vermonters and regional consumers, and improve the viability of Vermont’s meat producers. Additionally the increased coordination of business planning and technical assistance, paired with greater coordination of public and private investment, increased jobs and establishments in the meat processing sector.
As demand for Vermont-raised meat increases among certain market segments, the opportunity is ripe for a new task force that is focused on meat production issues—specifically, how to assist farmers who want to “scale up” and produce meat at price points that will expand Vermont producers’ reach in the marketplace.