by Diana Mendes
A new USDA processing facility, The Livestock Institute of Southern New England (TLI) will break ground late spring 2016. The Institute will include a slaughterhouse, butcher shop, smokehouse and retail store to be centrally located in Westport, MA. TLI Board member David Brownell stated, “There is a huge demand for locally raised meat and the lack of local processing is holding the growth of livestock producers back. Farmers don’t want to drive four and a half hours to have livestock processed”.
Starting out three years ago as Southeastern Massachusetts Livestock Association, it was conceived and run by local farmers. Their goal was to bring a livestock processing facility to southeastern Massachusetts.
“A great amount of care has gone into the design phase as the Board of Directors believe that the farmers have put a great deal of care into raising each of the animals they will bring to us,” said Andrew Burns, President of TLI.
The facility and processing areas are designed by the Dennis Group out of Springfield MA, a food facility engineering company specializing in food safety. Darrin Mendes, TLI, treasurer said, “By processing here we will reduce the stress on animals and minimize the cost of shipping, allowing for better quality, consistency and fair price of locally raised livestock.”
High priority has been placed on the unique identification of animals by the TLI. Investing in systems that interface directly with weight scales, barcode scanners, thermometers and RFID readers. These integral tracking systems are used to ensure the protection of the animal’s health, public health and food safety for tracing origin and destination of livestock from farm to table.
The 9,500 square foot facility will allow TLI to fill the gap in the current infrastructure. Adding a location to purchase meat retail and a point of pickup for freezer orders gives their customers consistency and builds stronger relationships.
Burns added, “We want all of New England to know that this is theirs.”
Susan Murray, TLI association manager says, “It is a place to grow and learn. The Institute will support livestock producers with education from beginning to advanced husbandry.
It is a facility that will help farmers build a strong agricultural foundation while getting their business moving.”
Beginner and backyard farmers will be able to learn the business of animal husbandry and best practices. Spring seminars will cover the topics of: becoming a producer, animal care and when to call a veterinarian, property organization, production planning, staff training and hiring the right workers.
Working in conjunction with local agricultural schools and colleges, TLI will augment the courses offered in animal care with workshops on expanse, soil health, pasture management and sustainable foods, as well as covering some aspects of the retail end of the business.
Future plans for TLI include bringing in culinary schools to work with farms and the public on sausage making, how to cook grass fed beef and related topics.