Great Article that Ilya sent me. This article revolves around a couple pet issues of mine (broadly defined as food politics). This is an interesting consequence of the trend toward a more intensive mass industrialization of meat processing in the US.
Push to Eat Local Food Is Hampered by Shortage
By KATIE ZEZIMA
Published: March 26, 2010
EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. — Erica Zimmerman and her husband spent months pasture-raising pigs on their farm here, but when the time came to take them to slaughter, an overbooked facility canceled their appointment.
With the herd in prime condition, and the couple lacking food and space to keep them, they frantically called slaughterhouses throughout the state. After several days they found an opening, but their experience highlights a growing problem for small farmers here and across the nation: too few slaughterhouses to meet the growing demand for locally raised meat.
In what could be a major setback for America’s local-food movement, championed by so-called locavores, independent farmers around the country say they are forced to make slaughter appointments before animals are born and to drive hundreds of miles to facilities, adding to their costs and causing stress to livestock.
As a result, they are scaling back on plans to expand their farms because local processors cannot handle any more animals.
“It’s pretty clear there needs to be attention paid to this,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview. “Particularly in the Northeast, where there is indeed a backlog and lengthy wait for slaughter facilities.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined to 809 in 2008 from 1,211 in 1992, while the number of small farmers has increased by 108,000 in the past five years.
Fewer slaughterhouses to process local meat means less of it in butcher shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Chefs throughout the Northeast are partnering with farms to add locally-raised meat to their menus, satisfying a customer demand. But it is not always easy.