Butcher Shop Update 2010-08-02

Sugar Mountain Farm Butcher Shop Forming Up

As many of you know our family has a Big Project in the works – As we announced a while back, we’re building our own USDA/State inspected on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop here at Sugar Mountain Farm.

It’s a Super Insulated Jello Mold for Concrete

Funding has been the biggest challenge. Banks have not provided any loans. But the community has stepped forward with a lot of help. As of August 2010 we have:

  • over $12,000 in CSA Pre-Buys,
  • $5,000 in personal loans from friends,
  • $10,000 in loans from local businesses and other farmers plus
  • we have spent over $33,000 of our own money bootstrapping our butcher shop project.

Forms Ready for Concrete

Things that are completed include:

  • Permits,
  • Old hay shed disassembled
  • Septic design / waste water,
  • Underground electric,
  • Super insulated foundation is poured and cured,
  • Insulated concrete walls are half way up and
  • Wooden forms are in place for the next concrete pour.

Our next step will be to pour the lairage sub-floor and the second ring of walls around the building.

Sugar Mountain Farm Pastured Pork

Many of the big costs and the hardest work are behind us. We expect to be closed in this fall and able to continue finishing off the interior during the cold winter months when outside projects are otherwise halted.

Progress is good!

Update: See the news story by Judy Simpson at WCAX TV about our big project complete with written story and video for those who have a high speed internet connection.

Outdoors: 74°F/48°F Overcast, Some rain, Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 71°F/70°F

Daily Spark: The irony is that if you took the time spent on Farmville and actually farmed you could feed the world.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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23 Responses to Butcher Shop Update 2010-08-02

  1. ranch101 says:

    That’s amazing! Great work, all of you.

  2. Sal says:

    That is fantastic progress! Wish you delivered a little closer to central Maine or we went to VT more than once a year (Addison Cty Field Days)- we’d be doing a bunch of CSA support ourselves! Keep up the great work!

  3. Nance says:

    love it! you all have got to be proud of your accomplishments. I have not heard the word “boot straps” in a coons age; it was music to my ears. Good work! Good luck!

  4. John Williams says:


    I read your post. amazing post! fantastic progress! That’s amazing! Great work, all of you. Keep up the great work!

  5. Marie says:

    Beautiful! I remember a while back you posted about several family members taking butchering classes – is that over, or on hold?

    Really great that you guys can further your own buisness while helping keep the skills alive… You rock, Jeffries Family!

    • We’ve done about 18 months of apprenticing with master butcher Cole Ward. It’s been great. We went from it taking four hours for the three of us together to do a pig the first time to now where we’re in and out in under an hour to completely butcher a pig. All this is working on a tiny 2’x4′ table without enough knives for the three of us. In time with more experience and a better setup in our own space we’ll be even faster. Practice makes perfect.

  6. Work ethic. When people google that in the future, they will see your families name.

  7. Marie says:

    You know, I spent nearly 20 years in the grocery biz cutting and selling fish. Usually, it was as part of, or at least ajacent to, the meat department. When I “retired” almost three years ago, the change in the skill of the people who call themselves ” meat cutters” was astonishing. Anyone under the age of 40 has never seen a full hanging side that has to be broken down – everything comes in cryo-vac’d cuts to be sliced… sad. That’s why I’m so glad to se you guys embarking on this project – someone will still know how to take a carcass and turn it into usable meat… your family gives me hope…

    • Cole Ward and Dean, two of the butcher’s we been learning from, said almost the exact same words. It is a dying skill and they fear taking it to their grave. They want to pass the art onto other people. Cole is working on a series of videos about meat cutting, something I’ve told him for years that he should do. I look forward to seeing them and will post about them when he’s got them done.

  8. Nance says:

    30 years ago, my husband and I bought a little grocery store. My husband had had just a little exposure to meat cutting prior to that but he learned to take a hanging half of beef or a quarter and cut it all up and wrap it or display it in the meat case. And people drove for miles to buy real meat. They will for yours too. Good for you and yours, keeping this art alive.

  9. John Smith says:

    Hi Walter,

    I see on the label there that you will be offering smoked meats. I know that you have had issues with smokehouses in the past and am wondering if you guys plan on doing your own curing and smoking too.


    • Smoking is quite challenging. Eventually I would like to learn to smoke and to cure too. In the layout of our butcher shop there is an area between the administration office (inspector) and the commercial kitchen where we’ll have a smoker eventually. That is a ways down the road as we need to get each process solidly and smoothly operating as we progress towards that.

      In the mean time the Adams Family Slaughter plant in Athol, MA where we take our animals now is just starting to offer USDA Inspected smoking. We have a set of pork bellies in process with them as I write this. It takes about three weeks so we’ll know mid-August what those taste like and I hope we’ll be delivering that bacon to stores. This will probably be followed smoked trotters, smoked hocks and smoked hams.

      We do offer smoked hot dogs. They’re delicious.

  10. jon says:

    nice news reel! it was cool to see video of your project coming along!

  11. Steven says:

    Amazing post. I am looking forward to reading more

  12. Edgwick Farm says:

    Great video! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Huck says:

    Congratulations on your progress.

    In the video it was stated the facility will allow you to do ten pigs a week; is this accurate? If demand far exceeds supply now; how’s ten a week to be adequate?


    • Our goal is to do 10 pigs per week and the plant is big enough to do that. The facility is capable of doing far more than that. See the post about capacity for details. Theoretically if we wanted we could do about 60 pigs a day, 400 pigs a week, 1200 per month or 14,400 per year. Something like that – how many hours a week do you want to work?

      The thing is we just don’t have any desire to get that big. I realize that may sound like a strange statement but we like being small. Enough is enough.

      Realize that when you work extra hard and earn a lot of money the government comes along and punishes you by taking more and more of it. I would rather earn what I need and spend my extra time and effort on more interesting things than paying taxes.

      Should I decide I want to pay more taxes I can do more pigs per week, or maybe cattle, sheep, etc. The capacity is there and everything is designed to be able to handle even large animals like full size bulls and steer. But then we’ll need that for large boars like Big’Un and Spot.

      They don’t explain all this in the TV news spot because they have a very limited amount of time for the newscast but thanks for asking so I could clarify that point.

  14. jon says:

    Okay Huck I can see how 10 a week could be good enough…… lets see 10 a week times 52 weeks thats 520 pigs……. 520 times 630 (discounted CSA pre buy price even) lets see thats 327,600 okay now lets just say operating expenses are 80% (including taxes) thats 262,080 so subtract that from 327,600 thats 65,520, okay lets just say 100 bucks a pig for butchering thats 52,000 so add that to 65,520 and you get 117,520….. thats almost twice what I make! Is it a ton? no, is it enought to support a family? yes. Is walter more frugal and has less expenses than this :) I think all us readers of this blog know the answer to that one. So all I can say is I bet if they do 10 pigs a week walter will be very happy……. darn I just wish I lived in VT so I could buy some of that tasty pork!!!

  15. Huck says:

    Hi Walter,
    Thanks for the clarification. Well, if ten is all you’re shooting for, and the three of you are able to process one hog in three hours (maybe one hour once you’re settled in); ten to fifteen hours a week to process ten pigs; SWEET. Heck, you guys probably spend that much time a week loading, transporting and then picking up the meet from the processors.
    I like the way you think. Bloody brilliant!!!

    ….haha…. my “security words” to make this comment are … Abstract Yelling…

    • That’s our thinking. Currently we spend an hour loading, seven hours driving to the butcher and unloading, one to two hours sorting orders and then we’re ready to begin delivering orders. That’s ten hours a week right there which get saved by doing it here. Plus it saves a great deal of driving, wear and tear on the vehicle, risk of driving on the highway, etc. I figure that with time and having all the tools and spaces setup right we’ll get faster and better. How long it takes us is one of those limiting factors to how much we want to do.

      The security words can be fun and sometimes seem so apropo…

  16. This is so awesome! Are these facilities only licensed and approved to do one kind of animal? We’re thinking of getting into the pastured chicken business, and raising some pastured pigs for ourselves, though long long long term it would be nice to be able to sell pastured pork and grass-fed beef. We’ve got enough good land and there’s no supply but plenty of demand in these parts. Would there have to be three separate buildings to do that? That would instantly disqualify the idea :).

    Your site is so helpful. I appreciate your no-secrets, no “buy my book for more info” posts (though I would willingly do so now if you published one).

    • Most USDA inspected meat processing facilities (slaughter, butcher, smoking) either do “red meat” (beef, lamb, goat, pork) or “poultry” (chicken, turkey, etc) because the poultry carry a lot more bacteria in their carcasses that the USDA is afraid will contaminate the “red meat” carcasses. We will follow this dichotomy. The USDA would like to see as much separation as possible between these meats (red/poultry) as possible (time, space, people).

      Some plants do wild game (deer, moose, etc) for fall hunters and exotics (water buffalo, emu, etc) but many do not. These animals are often handled by custom or state inspected plants instead. The fall season when hunting occurs is also the season when many farms have animals coming off of pasture for market so it is a very time for butchers. This makes it important to book slaughter slots four to six months ahead. The butcher we work with was booked up through late November at the start of August. She said she was going crazy with all the orders. One of those it’s good to be successful but… :}

      Our initial focus will be pork since that is what we do. For each animal there are multiple HACCP plans (slaughter, debone/cutting, ground) that must be filed with the USDA and approved so it is a fairly involved process. Later we will be adding additional animals and products (sausage, bacon, ham, etc).

      If you are raising just for yourself and not selling the meat then you do not need USDA or state inspection. You can do it yourself or it may be possible to have a local game butcher come to your place to do it for you.

      As to a book, sorry but the ones I’ve done are in other technical fields. Nothing yet for homesteading and farming. Maybe someday but I need a long cold winter with nothing to do… :) For now we’ll just go with the free web site. Isn’t the internet great!

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