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New rules for backyard slaughtering - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New rules for backyard slaughtering

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NORTHFIELD, Vt. -

When it comes to costs, feed and fuel top the list for most farmers. Hauling the herd to slaughter is expensive for smaller operations. Those writing the rules in Montpelier want to make it more affordable for smaller operations.

Lawmakers recently passed new laws letting individual families slaughter their own animals at a neighborhood farm. The law doesn't apply to farmers selling their meat to other people, but Laura Olsen from Green Mountain Girls Farm says it's proof lawmakers are listening to them.

"As a small farmer I think it's a step in the right direction," she says.

The new rules let farmers have someone slaughter 10 pigs, three cattle, 25 sheep, or any combination of those animals under 3,700 pounds on their property every year.

It's not exactly a new practice. Agriculture officials say it has been going on for decades, but up until now it was illegal.

"Things were going on and we kind of knew that but we didn't go after that," says Randy Quenneville of the Vt. Agency of Agriculture.

Quenneville isn't thrilled about the new laws. He says he supports the desire for local food, but his main concern is safety.

"What they did was basically kick open the door and so anybody and their brother can basically raise some sheep, have people come and put a sign in the yard 'come kill your own,'" he says. "While it helps the farmer who wants to kill their own, it doesn't do anything for the infrastructure or for food safety."

But Laura Olsen disagrees. She says no one wants anyone to get sick, and this new practice can be done safely.

"If this rule had been in place when we started our farm we might have started a little bit differently and taken advantage of some of those things," she says.

But Quenneville says private slaughter facilities have rules in place for when something goes wrong, and he's worried about not-so-sanitary conditions in neighborhood backyards.

"You've got the dirty bucket on the tractor, you've got dirty equipment, dirt, flies and all that stuff in the barn yard. A milk truck going down the road at 40 miles an hour while this carcass is hanging off the bucket of the tractor," he says.

Olsen says she's been through a similar process with selling raw milk and hopes to see these new slaughter rules extend to their farm. In the end she believes the decision should be up to the customer, not to the government.

"They see, hear and smell how we are raising their food," she says. "They have the opportunity to know how we are raising as well as how we are processing it."

There is also concern this new law will draw demand away from slaughterhouses and processing facilities currently being built across the state.

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