PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A new survey shows more than two-thirds of New Hampshire meat producers that were queried are interested in creating state certified meat processing plants as an alternative to a federal licensing program. The survey was conducted by Plymouth State University’s Center for Rural Partnerships (CRP) on behalf of the states’ Agriculture Department, in response to a number of Granite State residents raising their own livestock, including beef, pork and chicken, who may be considering selling their meat to consumers. Rachelle Lyons of CRP said there appears to be a market for locally produced meat in New Hampshire, but it’s not clear whether a state certified processing facility would be a viable business opportunity.
“We are now up to four U.S.D.A certified meat processing facilities within the state, and we wanted to see where there is opportunity for growth,” Lyons said. “This is testing of the waters to see if the producers, processors and the market would be receptive to a state-level certification as an alternative to the U.S.D.A.”
75 percent of the producers who responded to the survey said they agree with the statement, ‘I am interested in the development of a State Inspection Program in New Hampshire as an alternative to a USDA Inspection Program.’ More than half of producers who responded are interested in having some or all of their livestock processed through a State Inspection Program.
they believed a state level certification would be a benefit for producers and consumers, although processors were less supportive. Lyons also cited a recently released agricultural census showing rising support for local foods.
“The public is becoming more aware of how their food choices make a difference in regard to economic, social justice and environmental issues here in the state of New Hampshire, as well as regionally and globally,” said Lyons. “This would open up opportunity for smaller scale operators. In New Hampshire, it’s being looked at as an economic development opportunity.”
The biggest hurdle for aspiring meat processors is the high cost of starting a plant, due to federal regulations.
“It’s really hard to start-up, because of the initial capital investment; it’s a huge risk to try and establish a processing facility when there is a question whether there’s enough production to keep that processing facility viable.”
Lyons noted that a drawback to a state-approved facility is the limitation of selling the meat within the state of New Hampshire.
“It reduces your consumer base but it also really targets the consumers who want to know their farmer, where their food is coming from and take a more active role in their food system. We are not sure what share of consumers are aware of this locally-grown market– and we’re not sure if they are motivated to support it.”
Lyons said consumers will be surveyed in the coming months about the state-licensed processing idea. She added that in other states that have started their own certification program for meat processing plants the federal government has not tried to block their efforts.
The survey was conducted earlier this year, with 39 producers and processors responding to the query. Plymouth State faculty involved with the survey include Lyons and CRP Director Ben Amsden, as well as undergraduate student Taylor Dillingham, Social Science, and graduate student Jess Wilhelm, Environmental Science and Policy.
For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU News Services Mgr., or call (603) 535-2775.