NMPAN Research

Why doesn’t every county have a local slaughterhouse?  This short article lays out, in straightforward terms, the economics behind local meat processing.

Gwin, L. & Quanbeck, K. “The Economics of Local Meat Processing.” AgMag, Fall 2014. 

In the following four papers, NMPAN co-founders Lauren Gwin and Arion Thiboumery describe current challenges and innovative solutions related to small-scale meat and poultry processing for local markets.

Gwin, L., Thiboumery, A. & Stillman, R. (2013). Local Meat and Poultry Processing: The Importance of Business Commitments for Long-Term Viability. Economic Research Report 150. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gwin, L. & Thiboumery, A. (2013). From Convenience to Commitment: Securing the Long-Term Viability of Local Meat and Poultry Processing. Oregon State University: NMPAN Technical Report.
***Essentially the same report as above but with policy recommendations included.***

Gwin, L. & Thiboumery, A. (2013). Local Meat Processing: Business Strategies and Policy Angles. Vermont Law Review. Vol. 37:987.

Gwin, L., & Thiboumery, A. (2014). Beyond the farmer and the butcher: Institutional entrepreneurship and local meat. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.530/jafscd.2014.042.007
The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD), has granted permission for limited distribution of this paper by the author. JAFSCD can be found at http://www.agdevjournal.com.

Local Meat and Poultry Processing Report Abstract:

      Consumer demand for local food, including local meat and poultry, has risen in recent years. Meat and poultry processors are essential links in local meat supply chains. To sell meat, farmers need access to appropriately scaled processing facilities with the skills, inspection status, and other attributes to prepare these products safely, legally, and to customer specifications. Farmers and others suggest that limited processing infrastructure restricts the supply of local meat and poultry. At the same time, existing small processors often lack the steady, consistent business required for profitability. We analyze this multi-faceted problem and identify fundamental causes, drawing on a cost analysis of local processing at three scales. We use case studies of seven successful local and regional processors to illustrate strategies and solutions that may be adopted by others. We conclude that business commitments between processors and farmers are critical to mutual success: farmers commit to providing consistent throughput of livestock to process, and processors commit to providing consistent, high-quality processing services. This commitment, supported by coordination and communication between processors and their customers as well as along the entire supply chain, is essential to the persistence and expansion of local meats. We also describe five collaborative efforts around the country involving public and private sector partners who aim to expand opportunities for local meat marketing by providing support and technical assistance to meat processors and their farmer customers.

Local Meat Processing: Business Strategies and Policy Angles Abstract:
Consumer demand for local, sustainably-raised food continues to rise, and meat and poultry are part of this trend.  Farmers and others view processing infrastructure as a critical bottleneck in local meat and poultry supply chains, limiting their ability to meet demand. In this Article, we suggest specific business strategies and policy angles related to processing that can help increase the flow of sustainably-raised meat and poultry into local and regional markets. Part I of this Article provides a general overview of the meat processing industry and the varied needs of farmers. Part II examines the common view that a lack of small processing plants is the primary problem in meeting demand for local meat, to be solved by building more plants. Part III explains that the more fundamental problem is a lack of steady throughput of livestock. To be profitable, let alone expand capacity and services, small processors need more livestock to process on a regular, consistent basis. That requires committed business relationships between farmers and processors. Finally, Part IV discusses the role of “policy work”—that is, efforts to change public policy—in supporting local meat processing. This part of the Article offers observations and lessons learned from a decade of working on this issue as researchers, advocates, technical assistance providers, and practitioners. The Article concludes with recommendations for future work.

Beyond the Farmer and the Butcher Abstract:
Increased demand for local food has led to calls for additional supply-chain infrastructure to move products from farm to market. Meat and poultry are highly perishable, rigorously regulated products that require a complex chain, and processing is often said to be the weak link for local meats. Commitment from producers and meat buyers is essential to the persistence and expansion of processing capacity, but nonmarket actors can provide critical technical support and facilitate innovation that strengthens this sector. We present four collaborative efforts, three regional and one national, that focus on processing with the goal of expanding the local meat sector. These efforts harness the experience and expertise of a variety of partners, both public-sector and private, and provide information, guidance, and direct technical assistance. They also collaborate and cooperate with each other in a national peer-learning community, sharing and generating innovative knowledge, tools, and strategies. Tentative evidence of increased processing capacity, producer access to processing, and local meats marketing, while certainly not solely attributable to these efforts, suggests their value.