USDA investment aimed at beefing up Vermont’s meat-processing capacity

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:21 PM EST
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FERRISBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s slaughter and processing industry is bottlenecking, and the state says that’s holding back fresh, local meat from the market. A major investment by the USDA is aimed at alleviating some of that backup and helping farmers.

“Give us an opportunity to do more for the farmers we do have and bring in more farmers,” said Carl Cushing of Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing.

Cushing works with a few hundred meat farmers in Vermont and has been working on upgrades to his Ferrisburgh facility for years, not just to benefit his business, but farmers statewide.

“We’ll be able to help the farmer to penetrate markets they might not be in now,” Cushing said.

An investment by the USDA Rural Development Division of almost $1.1 million means thinking bigger and better as the facility presses forward on expansion.

“We know that we can double, the goal would be to triple the production that we have,” Cushing said.

Plans include an upgrade for livestock pens, a new barn, new flooring, new slaughtering equipment and watering upgrades, as well as 18-20 new jobs to go with the new space. It’s all to expand Vermont’s ability to get local meat to market.

“There is an economic multiplying factor when you invest in a processing facility,” said Sarah Waring of the Rural Development office within the USDA.

Waring says the grant is part of a $223 million program investing in meat and poultry processing nationwide. And the feds say investments in facilities like Ferrisburgh are a win for all Vermonters.

“It’s going to grow the local jobs, it’s going to add processing expansion in terms of capacity in the building, but it also means more farmers raising more animals on our pastures,” Waring said.

“This is a significant investment here but we still have a lot of work to do obviously,” Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said.

Tebbetts says alleviating the current bottleneck around slaughtering and processing is a top priority. We currently have 36 slaughter facilities in the state but it can be tough to keep business going, according to Tebbetts.

“You need a considerable volume coming through to make the business plan work,” he said.

The goal is to increase that volume, meaning more local meat on store shelves. To do that, Tebbetts says it starts from the ground up, and not just in Ferrisburgh.

“Infrastructure is important, making it more efficient, more storage, more freezer space, better equipment,” Tebbetts said. “This is significant, but we need to make investments around Vermont, as well.”

Tebbetts says on top of the upgrades that have already been made, the state is looking to make some investments in this facility as well sometime in the next few weeks.