What’s Next – Phasing the Butcher Shop

Phases of the Butcher Shop at Sugar Mountain Farm (Click to zoom)

Now that we have reached our 100% funded mark on Kickstarting the Butcher Shop the obvious question is, “What’s next?”

Before Kickstarter we had CSA Pre-Buys which reached local people and helped to get the butcher shop off the ground. Kickstarter extended the pre-buys to a national audience so that more people were able to help and in turn get our pastured pork, all natural hot dogs, sausage and other goodies. This has provided additional funds as well as a lot of wonderful exposure for our farm.

With the remaining two weeks of the Kickstarter project we can continue getting the word out. Money that comes in beyond the 100% funding goal can then help with the next step: bringing slaughter on-farm and then the smokehouse.

Phasing In the Butcher Shop

From the beginning we have always looked at this project of building our own USDA inspected on-farm meat processing facility in phases. By dividing it up into manageable sections we make it easier to research, design, fund, construct and get running smoothly.

Update January 2013: Schedules are always subject to revision as the weather, budget and other things sometimes, perhaps even often, slow down construction projects. In December of 2012 we finished the structural building and closed in so that we can continue construction indoors over the winter. Normally when winter hits hard we have to stop construction most years. Also as time goes on inflation and such have driven up the costs of some things in the past four years since my original budget estimate I’ve updated the dates below with the new estimates.

Phase I: Butchering

Fall 2015
 $150,000 budgeted in 2008 (but inflation raises that)
~$100,000 spent as of 4/30/2012
~$165,000 spent as of 12/10/2012 – Closed in
~$225,000 spent as of 7/28/2015 – Ready to open, awaiting final licenses

The first phase had to be butchering, which consists of meat cutting, sausage making and packaging. Without on-farm meat cutting ability, the slaughter on-farm didn’t make any sense so butchering comes first. The butchering is the highest cost portion of the processing, typically running $150 to $290 per pig depending on how much sausage, smoking, etc is done. By taking on the meat cutting and sausage making we save this money which can then be put towards the next phase of construction. The final cost is higher than the original budget due to inflation and because we expanded how large the second floor is so that we’ll have more room for the coolth attic and some other things.

Getting to the point of butchering on-farm (meat cutting) is the most time consuming and expensive phase because in order to make our facility be both thermally efficient and well constructed we needed to build the entire outside structural shell of the building. This means that most of the upfront permitting, utilities and cost of construction falls in this first phase.

Phase II: Smoking

Winter 2018 or 2019?
$50,000 budgeted

Finish off the walk-in cooler, freezer, brine room and cave. In the cave we’ll setup our initial small smokehouse so that we can begin doing smoked hot dogs, bacon, hams, bones, trotters, hocks and more. Later we’ll do a larger smokehouse where the initial cutting room is located after cutting moves to final cutter.

In addition to smoking the standards such as delicious bacon and hams, we’ll smoke bones, trotters, hocks and even whole pigs for events. Once we have our own smokehouse we’ll also be able to start doing our all natural nitrate/nitrite free hot dogs here on the farm.

Phase III: On-farm Slaughter

Fall 2023?
$160,000 budgeted

Bringing slaughter on-farm is where we make the big jump in humane animal handling because the livestock won’t have to make the many hours long trip to the slaughterhouse each week. The improved animal handling also means improved meat quality for our customers. This means we’ll also save about 20 gallons of fuel a week and a whole day of driving. We are very much looking forward to the day when we’ll no longer has to get up at 2 am to begin the journey down to the butcher each week. But, in terms of return on investment there is not nearly as much drive to take on slaughter.

Phase IV: Advanced Charcuterie

We’re planning to have several proper temperature and humidity controlled aging rooms so that we can do all sorts of interesting things beyond pork such as salami, pepperoni, pork jerky, prosciutto and other tasty treats. In addition to the cold kitchen and smokehouse we’ll also have a small hot kitchen. Our years of living in our tiny cottage have taught us a lot about how to make efficient use of space.

Phase V: Chicharones

Pastured Pork Rinds – A healthy snack food!

Baby-steps – We are accomplishing each phase in its time, getting it running smoothly, then adding the next stage.

To Infinity and Beyond…

Someone asked about what other sorts of projects we have planned on our farm besides the butcher shop. There’s a long list including:

  1. Large open greenhouse that will also provide an open wintering space for our herds.
  2. Larger later greenhouse containing smaller planted greenhouse powered by the bio-heat from the livestock.
  3. Portable shelters that can be moved around the fields for the inbetween cool seasons.
  4. Orchards of fruit trees and nut trees to provide more fall and winter foods.
  5. Expanded gardens. We currently plant about two to three acres a year. As time progresses the livestock have been improving our poor mountain soil such that the areas that once would barely support growing plants are now rich, fertile soils. Manure is gold.
  6. Improvements of paddock fencing. We do managed rotational grazing which improves our fields as well as naturally leaving parasites behind.
  7. Water direction, containment and management. Some seasons are flush with water and some seasons are dry. By terracing our land through fencing I have helped it to retain the the water that flows down the mountain so it soaks into the earth rather than flooding the valley and washing out the road. Studying the old stone walls you can see how the early settlers did the same thing.
  8. Addition of goats and more sheep. They co-graze most excellently with the pigs and poultry.
  9. Cattle. I grew up visiting my cousin’s Highland cattle in New Hampshire and have always wanted to get them. Our goal is to eventually have a herd of about 30 to 50 cattle including some milkers.
  10. Getting our maple sugaring bush up and running again – we lost a lot of trees in the disastrous ice storm of 1998. Since then we’ve been working on thinning, trimming and giving the trees time to recover from the damage of the storm.

There’s always something happening at Sugar Mountain Farm – Never a boring day!

There are still two weeks to go. Any funds we can raise will go to the next stage of the project, on-farm slaughter and then smoking. So, please, keep spreading the word about our Kickstarter project!

Outdoors: 55°F/36°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/67°F

Daily Spark: Do not confuse the motion of the trees with the wind.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What’s Next – Phasing the Butcher Shop

  1. Josh Thyer says:

    It has been a secret desire of mine to open up a slaughter house that can service local farms when I retire, but have been discouraged by cost-ineffective USDA regulations. I am interested to learn more of the ins-and-outs of your design and where your family received butcher training.

    • Josh, check out the Butcher Shop page which has links to the many articles about our decision to move the processing on-farm, funding, design, permitting, construction and training. Check out the USDA’s Very Small Plant Outreach page to get started. They have a lot of resources available on-line to get you started. Your state agency may also be invaluable.

      We spent 18 months apprenticing with master butcher Cole Ward to learn the art of commercial meat cutting. He has a DVD series people should check out – excellent. He’s fast but with the DVD you can slow him down, rewind and pause to catch all the details.

  2. David lloyd sutton says:

    Walter and company, congratulations!
    In looking at your extended plans I see both fruit and nut trees and goats. My personal experience is that a goat can girdle a three year old fruit sapling in seconds. Also that goats go where they will, absent concrete-anchored cyclone fencing. Caution!! They are excellent brush clearers, and out west here some folks are using goat flocks to maintain fire breaks. I can see where opening dense forest for pigs could well include goats, but young trees are really vulnerable to them.
    Best of luck on the abbatoir funding.

    • Very true about the goats and trees! Sheep are death to fruit trees too. Deer are another threat. But I developed a technique for handling them: It involves running parallel sheep/goat/deer tight fencing with the trees planted between them and then the trees also get wire guards around them while they are young. We have to do the guards anyways to protect them from mice and rabbits. This technique has worked well for us.

  3. Tim says:

    On the first reply, in the second paragraph, the second sentence is easily understood in context. I assume that “He has a DVD serious …” should be “He has a DVD series which serious..”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.