There are many operations in southern New England directly related to agriculture that need greater exposure to make their services better known to potential customers. With this in mind, the New England Meat Packing Company, in collaboration with the Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), held an open house on Nov. 13, 2014 to acquaint invited guests with the facility.
Specifically, the occasion was to announce that the operation now enjoys a USDA Certification for Processing to go along with its existing USDA Certification for Slaughtering.
A review of the regulations that must be complied with in order for an establishment be granted certification are broad in scope and designed to ensure that the consumer’s health and wellbeing are never compromised by the consumption of products processed in that plant. They ensure that everything in the production line is clean, sanitary, in good working order and used for the purpose for which it was intended.
The plant, located on 30 Furnace Hollow Road in Stafford Springs, CT, at one time operated under the name Home Pride. The present owner, Matt Beqiri, has operated the plant for 10 years, and among other outlets, serves the needs of ethnic communities on the East Coast. To ensure compliance with the specific religious needs of these various markets, kosher kill is performed, as well as the special rites associated with the Muslim faith.
Animals are trucked in and held in holding pens until they are slaughtered. Everything on the killing floor is done in the most efficient and humane manner. As the plant is presently set up, it can process 300 to 400 sheep or goats a day. If cattle are being processed, the floor can handle up to 50 head per day. The hides are pulled off by traction, then are salted and sold as another byproduct after being cured. Carcasses are hung for an average of 21 days. Payment is done on a dressed-weight basis.
The plant does a considerable amount of custom slaughtering for those who are small operators or who have home-raised a bull calf to market weight. For those animals that are custom done, the plant uses a system of identification where the ear tag follows the carcass through the entire process to ensure that there are no mix-ups when it comes time for the carcass to be broken down into individual cuts.
One of the complaints heard most often at gatherings of those involved in small beef operations is the lack of conveniently located slaughterhouses especially in southern New England. Years ago, there were a number located around the state, but over the years their number has decreased dramatically. This decline has often made it necessary for local producers to truck their animals out of state to be processed, increasing their costs and often making it difficult for them to meet customer’s requests in a timely fashion. With the resurgence of small farms in the state, the demand for processors has increased, but not been satisfied. To have a federally inspected and certified plant operating should help meet this need. At this time the plant does not have grading done, but it is possible if the demand were there.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has been supportive of this operation through its grants program. When the need for additional processing equipment became apparent, it was necessary to make that part of the plant more efficient. State grant money was made available to make that upgrade possible. At the time of this writing, certain upgrades to the physical plant are being considered to avoid more costly repairs down the road, again with the help of a state grant. If one of the stated goals of the present administration is the continuing support of agriculture, then investments such as this can do much to ensure that it remains viable and diverse.