Slaughterhouses: Missing link in the local food chain

There's a tremendous appetite out there for local foods, and it's growing. Farmers are willing to feed the market. A growing network of distributors and retailers is having great success selling food from small farms. But there's a huge gap in the local food economy, especially for meat and dairy products: Processors. Consolidation in the market has meant fewer and fewer slaughterhouses, forcing farmers to drive long distances to get their animals to market. And slaugterhouses that deal primarily with huge suppliers aren't focused on the needs of small farmers.

The New York Times has a piece today that highlights just how thin the bottleneck in the middle of the food chain is. The story hits close to home:

“There are a lot of people out there who raise great animals for us to use, and they don’t have the opportunity to get them to us because the slaughterhouses are going away,” said Bill Telepan, chef and owner of Telepan, a high-end restaurant in New York.

Mr. Telepan’s veal supplier, Duane Merrill of Walton, N.Y., said there was no slaughterhouse in Delaware County, “and it’s the size of Rhode Island.” Mr. Merrill said he also had difficulty finding adequate transport for veal cattle down to New York City.

Anybody who wants to open a new slaughterhouse, even in a rural area with a long agricultural history, is facing an uphill battle, both from a thicket of bureaucracy and from next-door neighbors. Case in point: Liberty, in Sullivan County, where a proposed slaugterhouse has locals riled up. From the Liberty Independent:

Ideal Snacks already stinks up the entire Village - is this really the type of Industry we need here? What happened to the luring in of tech firms during the DeMayo administration? Or luring more young professionals into the area?