Is this a good idea? Will it work for us? And what's it going to cost?
Building a successful meat processing business is far from easy. The feasibility studies listed below detail many of the complications, challenges, and costs (sometimes in great financial detail).
We want to caution all readers that these are only studies, not real life. Some even have mistakes (we marked the ones we found). Yet we collected all these studies here for you because even imperfect information is better than no information. Plus, we hope you'll find the process used in these studies helpful as you plan your own business.
Our advice? Read with skepticism, and check and double check your own numbers.
Each of the study summaries (click links below) includes the following information:
Other, similar studies, not summarized, are listed at the end, with basic info.
"Demand and Options for Local Meat Processing: Finding the way from pasture to market in the CT River Valley," written by the non-profit organization Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), reports demand for slaughter and processing services and evaluates infrastructure options for the Connecticut River Valley region.
Upshot: CISA’s demand survey showed significant farmer interest in local processing but insufficient supply for a large-scale facility that would serve only the local farming community. The study considers other, smaller-scale options to meet demand.
"Report on the Feasibility of a Small-scale Small-animal Slaughter Facility for Independent meat Producers in North Carolina," written by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), considers processing options for small livestock in North Carolina.
Upshot: Based on a statewide survey of demand for a small animal processing facility, and potential funding sources, researchers recommend a state-inspected slaughter and processing plant for poultry and rabbits, capacity of 1,000 or fewer head/day, to be operated with a minimal number of workers.
"Mobile Slaughter Unit Costs and Revenues: Projections from Nevada" provides a comprehensive financial analysis of the mobile option for that state. It is posted here, by section, with NMPAN comments.
"An Assessment of Demand for a Mobile Slaughtering Unit in Pierce, King, Kitsap and Thurston Counties, for the Puget Sound Meat Producers Cooperative" was written by Georgine Yorgey, then an MPA student at University of Washington.
Upshot: The study demonstrated demand for USDA-inspected, locally-raised meat sufficient enough to justify creation of USDA-inspected slaughtering services for local producers that is efficient, financially stable, and convenient for producers. A mobile slaughter unit was proposed based on estimated potential to increase the number of successful and sustainable farm businesses in the region.
"Final Report: Natural Livestock Feasibility Study," written by Jeff Schahczenski, National Center for Appropriate Technology, gauges the feasibility of developing alternative markets for livestock products in Inyo and Mono counties, California.
Upshot: the development of a regional alternative livestock market in Inyo and Mono counties is not currently feasible, in part due to a lack of processing options and limited interest in investing in such infrastructure. To make such markets practical will require education, research, and increased leadership and ownership in the project from livestock producers and local merchants.
A follow-up study was completed in 2013:
The Western Massachusetts study was commissioned by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) which has several additional tools on their website:
CISA designed the template in 2008 to test the financial feasibility of establishing a small-scale, low-tech, mixed species slaughterhouse and processing facility in Western Massachusetts. CISA partnered with a small group of farmers to estimate cash flow inputs for building or renovating a small-scale slaughter and processing facility. Based on this, they developed a cash flow projection and Profit and Loss Statement, in template format for others to use.
This feasibility template was designed to help test the economic viability of establishing a small-scale meat-processing facility. It assumes the facility will not slaughter animals, but will instead receive whole animal carcasses, halves, or quarters, which will then be further processed. This template can provide a quick analysis of a potential business, as well as the relevant criteria to consider. The template, however, should not be the sole tool used in your determination.