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.
Meat Processing Feasibility Studies: What's Here
Each of the study summaries (click links below) includes the following information:
- Author/organization, date, how funded, geographic area covered
- Study objective and problem addressed
- Scope of the study
- Available processing options and analysis of options
- Results and conclusions
- When available, cost and revenue analysis
- Link to original study (pdf)
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.
"Confronting Challenges in the Local Meat Industry: Focus on the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, " written by Ellen Dickenson, Spirit Joseph and Jonathan Ward at the Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Commissioned by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) and funded by the Federal States Marketing Improvement Program Grant. This study has several additional tools on their website, including:
Cash Flow Template for a Small Meat Plant: 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.
CISA Feasibility Template for a Small-Scale Meat Processor (cut & wrap only): 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.
Other Processing Feasibility Studies
alphabetically by state, and city or region if there is more than one per state
Del Norte County, CA
- Del Norte Meat Processing and Retail Facility
- By John Irwin, consultant, www.jirwinconsulting.com
- Date: March 2011
- Commissioned by Del Norte Resource Conservation District, funded by a Community Development Block Grant
Link to full study: 289 p., includes financial projections, plant designs, and other extensive appendices
North Coast Region, CA
- "Meat Industry Capacity and Feasibility Study of the North Coast Region of California"
- By Shermain Hardesty, John Harper, and others from University of California, Davis, UC Cooperative Extension, and The Facilities Group
- Date: 2009
- Funded by a grant from US Dep't of Commerce Economic Development Administration to Mendocino County Economic Development and Financing Corporation
- Link to full study: Study with supporting documentation
A follow-up study was completed in 2013:
- "Mendocino County Meat Plant Study"
- By Shermain Hardesty and John Harper
- Date: 2013
- Funded by a grant from the US Dep't of Commerce Economic Development Administration to the Mendocino County Economic Develop and Financing Corporation
- Link to full study: Study with supporting documentation
Tuolumne County, CA
- "Facilitating Direct Sales of Meat Products in Tuolumne County: A Progress Report"
- By Jay Norton, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Tuolumne County, Sonora, CA; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: March 2006
- Funded by USDA Cooperative DevelopmentRural Business Enterprise Grant Program]
- Link to full study: Tuolumne County Processing Options
- Strategies to Increase Prosperity for Small Farms Through Sustainable Livestock Production, Processing and Marketing
- Project Director: Darin Saul, PhD, Office of Community Partnerships
- Date: January 2014
- Funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Link to project summary and other documents (click on "Results Summary" to download Project Summary)
- "Feasibility Study For A Niche Multiple Species Meat Plant Located in Northeast Iowa"
- By Food and Livestock Planning, Inc. and ProAnd International, Ltd.
- Date: April 2002
- Commissioned by Upper Mississippi Family Meats Cooperative, with Blooming Prairie & CROPP Cooperatives.
- Funded by grants from USDA and the Iowa Department of Economic Development
- Link to full study: Niche Multiple Species Plant NE Iowa
- "Michigan Meat Processing Capacity Assessment Final Report"
- Authors: Jeannine Schweihofer, Sarah Wells, Steve Miller, Rich Pirog
- Publication date: September 26, 2014
- While not a feasibility study, per se, this publication details results from a 2014 study of meat processors in Michigan. MSU Extension and Center for Regional Food Systems Livestock Work Group members surveyed processors to better understand the state of the Michigan meat industry. The report includes details of the demographics of Michigan’s meat processor operations, the types of business that exist, markets that the businesses serve, and some of the operators’ future business plans. A corresponding map of meat processing and slaughter facilities in Michigan is available on the MSU Extension website.
- Link to the study
Beaverhead County, MT
- Mobile Slaughter Unit for Wyoming: Assessment of Need and Values
- A collaboration of the Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Rural Development Council, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Sheridan Community College, and agriculture producers in the state
- Date: July 2004
- Funded by Federal States Marketing Improvement Program Grant
- Link to full study
Want even more feasibility studies? Calaveras Grown, a "countywide cooperative marketing program" in Calaveras County, California has an excellent list with even more feasibility studies. You can see the list here.