What is the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network?

NMPAN is a university Extension-based national community of practice of people and organizations helping small meat processors thrive by growing our shared wealth of information and innovation. Small and mid-sized plants — when available at all — can lack capacity, equipment, appropriate inspection status, and the human and financial capital to upgrade or expand. To meet this need, NMPAN assists meat processors, producers, buyers, regulators, and others involved in this growing sector by coordinating, distributing, and developing information and resources to improve access to processing infrastructure and the long-term stability of this sector.

NMPAN’s Vision

A stable base of profitable and nimble small and mid-sized meat processors are essential to bringing sustainably- and humanely-raised meat and poultry to local and regional markets. Our theory of change is that connecting meat processors to each other and to supply-chain actors creates opportunities for peer-exchange, problem-solving, better understanding of different challenges and needs of the sustainable meat value chain. Incorporating the whole array of interests involved is essential to the long-term viability of the niche meat sector.

Who is part of NMPAN?

  • Meat processors- custom and inspected, slaughter through retail butchers
  • Livestock producers, marketers, and buyers
  • Companies that support the meat sectors- equipment dealers, supplies companies, consultants, insurance brokers, architects and plant designers, and more
  • Cooperative Extension and other academics
  • State and federal departments of agriculture, food safety, and health
  • Non-governmental organizations (of many types)

The NMPAN leadership team is comprised of Director Rebecca Thistlethwaite, Program Manager David Zarling and a fourteen-member advisory board drawn from industry, academia, NGOs, and government. Learn more about NMPAN People>>

What are NMPAN’s impacts over the last 14+ years?

Read about the first decade of our work along with our 2023 annual report here.

We have state affiliates in 43 states.

We combine comprehensive, often site-specific technical assistance with coordinated action for larger-scale, systemic solutions to challenges facing the niche meat processing sector.

Click Here to find help in your state


What Are Niche Meats?

Locally raised, certified organic, grass-fed, no hormones or antibiotics, certified humane — we use “niche” very broadly to refer to many types of market differentiation. Niche meats are often marketed more directly to consumers with shorter supply chains and more regional distribution. Niche meat processors generally do some co-packing for local farmer/ranchers.

NMPAN Supporters

NMPAN would not be available to you without support from a diverse group of agencies, foundations, and generous private donors. NMPAN  has received support from USDA Risk Management Education, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, USDA Rural Development, USDA Economic Research Service, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Heifer International, the national eXtension Initiative, USDA CSREES, the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, Oregon State University, Iowa State Meat Processors Association, #NoRegrets Initiative, Sandy River Charitable Foundation, TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation, and the Lutsey Family Foundation. Business sponsors of NMPAN have included: Mission Meats, Lorentz Meats, Vermont Packinghouse, Bunzl Processor Division, and Ultrasource. A special thanks to Chuck Jolley of Jolley & Associates for providing us pro-bono marketing and outreach support.

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