Butcher Shop at Sugar Mountain Snowed
Layout – Click for the Big View
Sugar Mountain Farm Butcher Label
Custom Order Special Cuts
With Master Butcher Cole Ward
Ben with Porchetta
Sugar Mtn Farm USDA Label
We only process for our farm. If you have pigs you want butchered, see the USDA list of butcher shop.
Our family built our own USDA/State inspected on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop – an amazing journey of a family designed, built, owned and operated on-farm modern meat processing facility with an old world feel:
- 2008-04-21 Butcher announces retirement
- 2008-04-28 We met with State
- 2008-08-17 Began 18 month Butcher Apprenticeship
- 2009-03 USDA HACCP Training
- 2009-06 Permits completed!
- 2009-07 Hay shed down
- 2009-08 Underground electric
- 2009-09 Super-insulated foundation
- 2009-10 Wall forms up
- 2009-11-15 First Announcement
- 2010-08-03 Project update
- 2010-11-05 Walls topped
- 2011-08-07 Reefer slab plumbed
- 2011-11-11 Reefer Ceilings Poured
- 2012-07-30 Admin, Reefer, FCB
- 2012-10-10 High Ring Pour & Abattoir Loft
- 2012-12-04 Top Ring and Ceilings Poured
- 2012-12-15 Super Insulated
- 2013-01-18 Ben’s Butcher Shop Model Tour
- 2013-06-18 Freezer-Cooler-Brine Poured
- 2013-07-04 Inspector’s Office & Bathroom divider wall with plumbing and in-wall toilet tank.
- 2013-10-01 Granite door sills installed.
- 2013-11-15 Roof Exterior Pour
- 2013-12-26 Toilet Tank Hung & Interior Partitions.
- 2014-02-06 Equipment Choices for iCutter.
- 2014-03-25 Arches & Ceilings
- 2014-05-07 Final Concrete Pour to butcher – Hall Floor
- 2014-06-04 Equipment arriving!
- 2014-06-16 Equipment Installation & Testing
- 2014-06-20 Hall of Mirrors
- 2014-07-05 Inspector’s Visit
- 2014-07-29 Washer & Drier In Place
- 2014-08-01 Equipment In Mock Butcher Shop
- 2014-08-02 Polyurea
- 2014-08-19 Last Equipment for Cutting Meat & Sausage!
- 2014-09-21 Admin Walls Polyurea
- 2014-10-06 Stainless Steel in iCutter
- 2014-12-04 Admin Photo Ready
- 2015-01-19 Electric
- 2015-04-09 Ventilation
- 2015-04-25 Inspector’s Office
- 2015-05-04 Bathroom Plumbing
- 2015-05-12 Application to Butcher!
- 2015-05-15 Retail License
- 2015-05-23 Wholesale License
- 2015-06-08 Plumbing Done
- 2015-06-19 Water Test Passed!
- 2015-06-20 Septic Connected
- 2015-07-05 Hatches Sealed
- 2015-07-17 Construction Completed!
- 2015-09-01 HACCP – Final License Application
- 2015-09-10 Dry Runs Done
- 2015-09-11 Wet Run #1 – First Pork Cut
- 2015-09-15 Wet Run #2 – 2nd Pork Cut
- 2015-09-30 Food Safety meeting final HACCP Plan Details
- 2015-10-09 Vermont Inspected Licensed to Cut!
- 2015-10-15 Butcher Shop Open!
- 2015-11-29 Sausage making start up
- 2016-04-05 Breakfast Maple Sausage
- 2016-03-16 Initial Validation Period of HACCP Plan
- 2016-04-14 Food Safety Assessment Review completed and passed by Vermont Meat Inspection Service, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets!
- 2017-03-15 Corn Pork for St Patty’s Day
- 2017-03-31 USDA initial visit to butcher shop.
- 2017-07-19 Submitting USDA Inspection Application
- 2017-07-24 USDA Application Submitted
- 2017-08-08 Call from the USDA
- 2018-03-15 USDA Walk Through
- 2018-05-01 USDA Grant of Inspection!!!
- 2018-05-03 First day under USDA inspection – Dual Jurisdiction
- 2018-05-10 Second day under USDA inspection – Dual Jurisdiction
- 2018-05-17 First full day (99%) under USDA inspection
- 2018-05-20 Most product labels completed with new USDA Master Label design
- In Progress… USDA label & formulation approval, Sugar Free Bacon
- Next hurdle: Some sausage, bacon and other labels awaiting FSIS/USDA approval (they’re >5 weeks behind right now), minimum of 90 days for USDA level HACCP validation and verification process plus food safety assessment review prior to final federal acceptance of HACCP Plan, SSOPs, SOPs, GMPs… Additional refrigeration of iCutter.
- Butcher Shop Posts All posts
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Since banks were not lending and government grants were not available we bootstrapped the construction from our savings, farm’s cash flow, sale of assets like our dump truck, selling CSA Pre-Buys where customers get free processing in exchange for buying early, Kickstarter and generous loans from several area business, customers and other individuals. The butcher shop was truly a home grown success.
We divided our big project into phases. First building the shells of the building and then finishing off our on-farm butcher shop where we do raw processing, e.g., the cutting of the carcasses into chops, roasts, ribs and other portions. Next we added sausage making which is an additional regulatory step and involves new skills. Next we plan to finish off the walk-in coolers, the brine room and cave so that we can start smoking bacon, hams and other cuts. We’ll move meat cutting (a.k.a. butchery or raw processing) into the three times larger final cutting room which will have space for making our hot dogs. In about five years we plan to add on-farm slaughter section to bring the process entirely on-farm. Each phase helps to pay for the next phase, breaking the project up into manageable chunks that we can fund and handle in a step-by-step manner.
What does the Butcher Shop mean?
For the pigs the butcher shop means that eventually they will spend their entire lives on our farm and not have to be trucked the long distance to a remote slaughterhouse. This will mean there is no bad day for a pig at Sugar Mountain Farm once we complete the slaughter room in about another five years.
For our customers the butcher shop means quality, local, low food miles, faster turn around, more varieties of products and cuts that they can’t obtain elsewhere.
For us the butcher shop means lower costs of processing, higher yield per pig, selling more of the pig, more opportunities to do value-added products and security for our family in knowing we will have processing available in the ten to twelve months it takes to get a pig from breeding to plate.
For other local farmers our butcher shop means more available processing slots at other area butchers and a open sourced demonstration of how a family can bootstrap their own USDA/State inspected meat processing facility.
We only process for our farm. If you have pigs you want butchered, see the USDA list of butcher shop.
- CSA Pre-Buys
- Butcher Shop Info
- Funding the Butcher Shop
- Mobile Slaughter Unit Thoughts
- Niche Meat Processing
- USDA Small Scale Plant Outreach
- Temple Grandin on Animal Handling
Due to regulatory, insurance and biosecurity complexities we do not offer processing for other farms. After we have the facility completely finished and everything running smoothly for several years we’ll be able to consider at doing livestock for other farms. We sometimes buy in pigs from other farms to raise and butcher but do not offer custom processing at this time. If we do eventually offer custom processing to other farms we would start with processing for people who buy weaner pigs from us.
For commercial or custom processing of your livestock we highly recommend Adams Farm Slaughter[1,2] in Athol, Mass. They do a wonderful job with humane slaughter, meat cutting, linked sausage making and smoking. We have been very pleased with their work for years and I highly recommend them. You can reach them at their website. I would suggest scheduling with them by June since the fall season is very busy.
For on-farm butchering I highly recommend master butcher Cole Ward who can come to your place and cut your meat for you. He is the gentleman that our family apprenticed with for 18 months to learn the art of butchering pigs. Cole does meat cutting workshops, something we do not do, and he has a series of DVDs and books that will teach you how to cut your own meat as well as giving great history and insight into the realm of American butchers.
While we won’t initially do processing for other farms at this time, our project benefits other farmers since it frees up 500 to 1,000 processing slots a year helping to relieve the regional meat processing bottleneck. Another benefit for other farmers is we are paving the way for how small farms can build very small, even nano-scale, inspected processing facilities through sharing information of how we permitted, build and operate our facility including the floor layouts and other details. Other farms have already started their own facility following our lead in this grand adventure. The Sugar Mountain Farm butcher shop has been chosen for the Open Source Ecology project which will help spread the information to more people. See the butcher shop articles on this blog as well as those about marketing and meat labeling.
Build-Your-Own Butcher Shop
It is quite feasible for a handy farmer to build their own butcher shop. The USDA is quite helpful and encouraging in providing documents on their web site about the rules and regulations. The various national codes for construction, electric, plumbing all are excellent guidelines to start understanding such a project. As a nation, and a world, we need more small butcher shops so I heartily encourage you to Do-It-Yourself. But, please note that I do not do consulting on setting up a butcher shop. My reason for not doing consulting is I don’t want the responsibility and I’m too busy doing interesting projects. It’s that simple. You’re free to read the posts here about how we did things and borrow ideas. Ask questions in the comments of various posts on my blog – I read all comments and answer questions here on my blog so other people can benefit from the dialog. If you’re looking to open your own meat processing facility start with your state department of agriculture meat inspection and the FSIS USDA Very Small Plant Outreach web site. You may wish to get this book: Your self-study guide to understanding how to develop a HACCP plan. Also visit the Niche Meat Processing Organization. Humane handling resources can be found at Temple Grandin‘s site. You may also be interested in this list of USDA meat processing plants to find ones in your area. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has a useful chart about processing that applies similarly in other states.
Tours, Seminars, classes, workshops, etc:
We’re not setup to do farm tours, seminars or agritourism. However, head on over to our Farm page and watch the eight minute video tour of our farm and from when we were building the butcher shop. You’ll get to virtually sit in the field and have a pig snuffle your nose.
Watch Walter Cut Your Pig:
If you want to watch your pig being butchered that can be arranged but bumps our insurance up for six months so the cost is $1,000 on top of the cost of the pig and processing. This can be up to four observers and takes about two to three hours. Note that space is very tight – we have a very tiny space efficient cutting room. I typically do on a Saturday under retail exempt or custom so the meat is for you but can not be resold. Unfortunately the insurance company will not cover you helping so you’ll have to just watch which means no hands-on.
I am a member of the Molalla, Oregon City Council and candidate for Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, Position 3. I have been, and continue to be supportive of all efforts to maximize Community Supported Agriculture, and I’m very impressed with your achievements at Sugar Mountain, Vermont! I don’t know if there is yet a national coalition of Community Supported Agriculture advocates, but if there isn’t there should be! If so, I would love to become a member/supporter!
Is the RTE kitchen which I assume is a heat source, being in the “cold zone” going against all the superinsulation efforts of the overall building?
Good catch, Ryan. The RTE kitchen is a sometimes warm, sometimes cool area. The heating portions (smokehouse, ovens, etc) are located outside of the super insulated reefer section to the south in Admin. The cooler functions such as slicing bacon, packaging, etc will be done in the RTE kitchen itself. In all probability there may be a cook stove in the RTE kitchen unless I figure out how to do those functions in the smokehouse – possible. Otherwise venting will be key.
An update on this. Will and I have figure out a way we might move more of the heat out of the RTE kitchen such that we end up with a warm kitchen and a cool kitchen. Turns out the inside of the building is bigger than the outside. :-) Stay tuned.
I just found your website online Walter. We share the same passion, farming. I am very interested in your own butcher shop. Their isnt a USDA butcher shop in my county. I need the USDA to sell our lamb and pork at the market. (I am told). I live in the Sandy River Valley in Avon, Maine. (Western Maine mountains). I pastures my pigs (Tamworth-Large Black crosses) on the side of the mountain this year on a rotational system. We are small scale (35 Katahdin Sheep, 5 breeding pigs) Grain prices for pigs just jumped $40 a ton. We buy Non GMO grain from a local producer in Farmington. Looking at ways to feed pigs with out going broke and get our meat prices down so people can buy them locally. Love to hear what other farmers are trying and what works and doesnt. The butcher house is a great concept.
Darren, I’m in Farmington and in the same situation as you. We’re raising pigs and want to start selling meat. As I understand it, as long as you sell “in state” you only need a state inspected butcher shop. (which is hard to find as well) We’re feeding bagged pellets and I’m curious where I can buy grain locally. We have been raising pigs for family and friends and will be breeding two sows for the first time this month. Walter, Great site. Lots of good information. I too like the concept of your own slaughter house.
This new farm bill in the lameduck session of congress will put me, thee, and everyone else out of business. It’s important we get hold of our congresspersons and tell them to stop it.
Yes, see here and here. They’re trying to take away our rights to farm and food. Government at its finest.
I see s510 has cleared the first hurdle. My congress people voted for it (aaarrggghhh). I loathe overeaching government, the more they try to help, the more harm they do.
Ron, I buy purina pellets from and the mash from a local producer. The mash I add my own nutrients. I love the fall, summer and Spring months I put my pigs in about 2 acres and they forage for themselves. In the winter its very difficult to do that. I move them to the barn for the winter. (I dont like it). They have access to the outside, same as all the animals.
Ron can you email me? Interested in what youve done firstname.lastname@example.org
We are trying to get started here on a butcher shop. What are the added expenses having it USDA inspected and licensed??
The USDA Inspection License isn’t a big additional cost. The cost is simply in being inspect-able – that is building to their standards. The recommendation from both our state and the USDA was to start with state inspected and then move to USDA inspected. The requirements are the same but the state offices are more accessible to those just getting started so it makes for a logical stepping path.
I just found your website! It’s great! Ihave a farm with about 51 pigs. We are hoping to start a small scale slaughtering/butchering shop. Any suggustions would be greatly appreciate.
We’re working our way along this path too. Check out the tag cloud in the right sidebar and look at the Butcher Shop section. Also follow the links on the Butcher Shop page (the menu above). It is an adventure and worth it.
This is such an amazing project. Please keep posting about it. I love watching you work. It’s like a virtual construction site with peep holes!
Just found your site. I am rather impressed and encouraged seeing your farm and future butcher shop. I live in Southern California and have had to go north, way north, to find organic grass fed meats.
I think the more word gets out that there is an alternative to “factory meats” the more of a demand will help with costs and politics.
May I add you to my blog?
I completely agree with what you said on the Grist page about the myth of the Urban Landscape. I currently live in an ex-urb of NYC and I can tell you how we have carved up the land, air and water to support communities of people who commute to work in NYC. We are part of this black scape you speak of. We hope to move one day… Happy farming to you and your family, C Sander
Are their any ethenol plants in your general area? Their after-product is essentially spent brewers grain.
Not that I know of. This isn’t a big corn area. The corn that is grown goes to feed dairy cows, generally on the same farm it is grown on.
looks like business is booming in the green mountain state. look forward to trying of you top quality pork
Just a thought: Since you guys are trying to get money together for your nano-slaughter house which has the potential to help change industry, you may want to try to appeal to the world through Kickstarter.com. The website is essentially dedicated to hosting the petitions of people looking for help to accomplish a variety of things like starting up businesses, raising money to bring the arts to locals, educating the masses, etc. From the looks of it, people are incredibly responsive, especially when it comes to causes that have the potential to serve the greater good. The following are just a few:
Fully Funded :
A fundraising work in progress:
Another fundraising work in progress:
If you can manage, try and post a video.
Several people have suggested Kickstarter and I contacted them twice but they weren’t interested.
I also contacted SlowMoney which turned out to have NoMoney – they “wanted me to donate to them so they could then donate some of that to people like me.”
Banks and government loans were also no-go. Banks said, “They’re not lending to new or expanding businesses at this time” despite all the money President Obama gave them precisely for that purpose. The government said we’re too small to bother with. They wanted bigger projects.
Fortunately we have been able to get funding through our own farm’s cash flow, through customers who have bought CSA Pre-Buys, through local businesses who offered us vastly extended terms on materials and through individuals who have provided small and large loans towards our project. The lovely part about this is it is real people who loaned to us and it is to real people that we are paying interest. The middlemen, the bankers, were cut out of this loop. The people who have loaned to us thus got much higher returns (interest) than they could get at a bank and we got a lower interest rate (cost of borrowing) than any bank would have given. It has been very much a win-win for both us and those generous people who lent directly to us.
Great stuff here Walter, I will follow your progress with interest.
I am farming pure Tamworth here in Souther Oregon, and am in the process of establishing our own butcher shop and custom processing facility under state inspection.
With regards your post above I had two suggestions:
1. Kickstarter is not an organization that will of itself be “interested” in supporting your venture, hence why you got the response you did. They only facilitate you reaching out via their site to people you know… and word of mouth… to source essentially free money. You could for example have all of us visiting here donate 5 or 10 bucks just to be on your email list…
I’d suggest you take another closer look, it’s a great resource.
2. Slow Money – as a national organization IS looking for money and members to do what it does – coordinate and facilitate. We just attended their 3rd annual gathering, this year in San Francisco. We saw scores of business people like you (and us!) knee deep in the rural/food world stand up and present in front of a room full of potential investors. This also occurs at the State and local level too. Here’s your local contact: Tom Stearns ~ email@example.com
Drop him a line, he’ll help hook you up…
Best wishes and thanks for sharing the experience via this blog,
Iron Age Farm
They had said they had no interest in our project because it was a business (kickstarter) and they had no money (Slow Money). Their response was: “Thanks for writing in and sharing your idea. Kickstarter is a platform for projects rooted in the creative arts that can offer tangible, personal rewards to an engaged community. We’re not really a platform for raising funds for general business or equipment expenses. Your project falls outside of Kickstarter’s scope.” Perhaps things have changed on both fronts. That would be great.
Interestingly, things may have changed at Kickstarter as I just had a note from someone there to resubmit our project. Looking through their funded projects I see several that are just like ours. Perhaps they have broadened their project range. I’ll give it another try.
This is a great story. Hopefully you set a model for people across the nation.
I’ve been reading many of the posts on your blog today about pigs, building your small cottage, and trying to build your own butcher shop so you can process and sell your meat, and keep costs down for your local customer base. As the economic situation continues to worsen our regional communities will be depending more and more on folks like yourselves; not only as a source of food but also as role models. I’m originally from New Hampshire, and I’d like to move back to my parent’s land and maybe buy a few more acres and start some small-scale farming. The farm down the road from us raises sheep and lamb for slaughter but they were told by the state that they had to send their meat for processing, and consequently their meat is pretty expensive. We still buy from them, but it is more of a special treat for us, not a weekly thing. The state and federal governments want to keep consumers dependent on the CAFO’s because the food corporations don’t want to lose profit (as I’m sure you know). I want to commend you for taking back the power of the people to produce and sell their own food to their neighbors. I hope that one day this rampant corruption will be a thing of the past.
I have a question: I’ve been researching the straw-bale stuff, and you are sure it won’t work in the New England climate? And you say your cottage only cost you $7,000? Could you elaborate on how you kept costs down, where you got your materials, etc. Thanks so much, and again, good luck with your project.
The straw bale test experiences I have had is that they rot out and I’ve heard that from actual straw bale houses that were built in our climate. I think they’re a great solution in much drier climates, we’re just too wet here.
The number one thing we did to keep costs down is building small. Building small makes a huge difference. Many houses are a lot bigger than people really need or use. Even in our old house which is small by many standards we only used a small part of it most of the year because during the winter we closed down large sections of it as it wasn’t worth heating them. The materials we did use to build the cottage were inexpensive – concrete, cinder blocks, even rebar isn’t really very expensive. Our windows were salvage – a big cost savings. The door was from the discount bin. After that comes doing the work ourselves – labor is a big cost. Back in the various tiny cottage posts you’ll find more discussion of costs.
What an extraordinary family project. Your story is so inspiring that people still DO things. You are so real.
Wondering about the status of the slaughterhouse? What is your projected open date?
When winter hit we had just poured the vaulted ceilings over most of the reefer, including the 15′ tall carcass chiller room, the final meat cutting room and the kitchen. The blast freezer, super cooler and brine room didn’t get covered before winter so we put a temporary conventional roof over them for the cold months. In Admin we got the form work up for the vaulted ceilings for the smoker, mech room, hall, bathroom and inspector’s office but the depth of winter hit before we were quite ready to pour concrete. Today Will and I were pulling protective plastic off and examining the arches. They look good. The form work fared well through the ravages of winter. It should since even a many foot deep snow load is nothing compared with six inches of concrete.
Soon we’ll pour the ceilings and interior walls of the Admin. What we may do is open for meat cutting this summer using the smokehouse space as our initial butcher shop space. This will let us then take on the butchering while we continue construction of the lairage, abattoir and chiller with the goal of having slaughter also under our hand by fall.
We’re opening in phases. That has always been the goal, to break the project down into manageable steps. We’ll get each portion of the process running smoothly before taking on more. We did need to do the entire foundation, super insulated floors, walls and reefer to get to phase one, the butchering, in order to build an energy efficient building. Once it is closed in though we can then gradually expand to cutting, slaughter, brining, the super cooler (27°F), blast freezer (colder than Hell) and later the smokehouse and chicharone (puffed pork rinds).
Walter, my dad mentioned your Kickstarter campaign and I’m happy to see you making great progress there- best of luck!
I’d like to suggest that you also look at http://www.indiegogo.com/learn/features as another crowdfunding avenue. indiegogo offers a model that Kickstarter does not – if you choose, you can launch a campaign type that allows you to gather in all pledged funding, whether your overall goal is met or not.
Hi Walter. I am gathering information on USDA and state regulations in regards to small-scale farmers. I am very interested and excited in the process you are going through to obtain USDA approval for your butcher shop. I’ve searched your website but have been unable to find a detailed write-up of your process and its caveats. If you have posted something like this already, please send me the link. If not, I am eager to speak with you to gain some insight into the successes and challenges you’ve had throughout this process. Thanks and continued good luck.
There is no one post that covers it all but do read through the Butcher Shop posts. Also go to the USDA’s Small and Very Small Plant Outreach web site.
Wow!! found your website while researching on what to feed my mini potbelly pig.
I live in Houston, Tx. and my husband and I own Raw to Retail license and this is our second year (newbies). Our Jerseys, goats, Brangus, and chickens are 100% pasture raised and “semi-wild”. Our animals goes to our local USDA butcher (the closest butcher-1 hour away). We were butchering about 20 to 30 of broiler chickens each week outdoor ourselves believing we were exempt from building a slaughter facility if we were under 10,000 chickens per year. Suddenly 2 months many State inspectors came around and gave everyone hell. Our butcher is still close… inspector kept adding new requirements at every return visit. Inspector told us it was very unsanitary to butcher our chickens in the open air, under the sun, & on stainless steel surface because there are BACTERIA in the AIR that will contaminate the chickens…. excuse me…what bullshit is that!!! So we got no meat to sell to our customers for 2 month… but we will find a way to continue. SO, I LOVE AND ADMIRE WHAT YOU ARE DOING… YOU INSPIRE US !
We don’t do poultry for sale so I don’t have direct experience on this but I remember seeing that Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm does outdoor slaughter in the open air on stainless steel tables much like you describe and he seems to have the system working. If you haven’t already check out how he manages it then definitely do. Yes, there is bacteria in the air. But that is true if you out doors or indoors. My understanding is they key is to move quickly from slaughter to chill to package. Keep it clean, keep it cool, keep it cloistered. One of the USDA inspectors I was talking about this with emphasized that the most important of those three is the cool. She said there is bacteria everywhere but when kept cold enough the bacteria don’t grow.
Sorry…for the terrible writing…it is 3 in the morning
Someone asked: Why not just use the word “small”? It’s not like you are doing molecular level butchering.
Because the USDA already uses the terms:
Meat Processing Facility
Small Scale Meat Processing Facility
Very Small Scale Meat Processing Facility
and all of these have very specific meanings.
Our facility is another step smaller by a large amount thus I use the term:
Nano-scale Meat Processing Facility
I thought about using milli-scale but while it would be a more appropriate term people, other than geeks like you and I, aren’t familiar with the term milli despite the existence of millimeters. So nano it is. Eat small. :)
Walter I am astounded at you and your familys undertakings. You not only do things differently and succeed but you share your way so generously. All too many people like you by that I mean innovators are charging humungo dollars for weekend seminars. You on the otherhand freely share what you know. Your generousity is greatly appreciated. I have learned so much from your web site for making our farm better. Kudoz! If you ever write that rumored book I’m inline to buy it!
Your family is tremendously inspiring. I and several other farmers out here have been following your project with great interest and studying all the links youve refered. We hope to eventually build a similar ultra small processing facility for all species out here. After studying your articles and rationals I think we too should start with just one species beeef in our case before we try to add others but we will have to build with all in mind. I know that you are only planning on slaughtering one day a week but if you were going slaughter twice or three times a week would you make any changes to your design?
Our rooms are made to a minimum size which fits just us working since we will have no outside employees. If you were going to have more people working you would probably want more work space.
We don’t have much in the way of employee non-work space since our facility is just outside our home’s door, just down the hill. If you had employees you would want a break room, etc.
Our chiller is designed to exactly fit our maximum possible throughput which is around 30 animals a week. We only intend to do ten finisher sized pigs a week plus the occasional sow, boar, roasters, beef and sheep or goats. Thus our chiller, which is the limiting capacity on our facility, is about 150% to 200% of our needs but if you were doing work for other farms you would probably want a chiller that was four times larger.
We have very little freezer space because we store our inventory out on the hoof. If you have member farmers they may appreciate having locker space so you would want more freezer space and cooler space for that. We do have a larger super-cooler which will run at 27°F, just above the freezing point of meat (25°F) for maximum quality. Very few people are going to have that sort of cooler so having a large one available to member farmers would be a big asset for your facility. I think that I would figure on about one pallet of freezer space and two to four pallets of super-cooler space per member – I’m kind of guess there though.
Our lairage is big enough for about 40 to 50 animals at max. If you increase the chiller capacity you would want to increase the lairage capacity to match. Since our animals are coming in right off the farm it is a little easier since we don’t need any unload space, truck dock or sorting pens in the lairage.
Realize that every time you increase the floor area you increase your annual real estate taxes as well as the initial construction costs. Cleaning and maintenance costs also go up.
Looking forward to when you open! Keep up all your hard work cuz it will reward you in the end having your own onfarm shop!
Thanks for sharing. I wish there were national non-profit networks to help their chapters with slaughter regulations and to be our advocates & to promote natural meats. organizations like ceritfied naturally grown would be a good fit, for example.
Funding obstacles, trying to run a small business, all while playing next to the corporate giants that can afford the zealous government directives, is all very challenging. Thanks again.
Craig- Small pig producer in TX
I am just so amazed by what your family accomplishes. The way you all work together is extraordinary, you all are an example to modern people who have lost this sense of purpose and togethereness.Keep up the wonderful work and wonderful reports of your projects!
Let me ask you this…if you were to do a “Mobile Butcher” shop would it be less expensive to get USDA certified? Just curious, because we have a few of those around here.
See this post about Mobile Slaughter Unit thoughts.
You had originally said estimated time of delivery would be Dec 2012. Just checking to see what it’s now estimated to be. Thank you.
I wish I knew the exact date. We are very much looking forward to starting to do our own butchering. We would like to be cutting our own meat as soon as possible – spring? Realistically it is probably several more months. We continue to make progress. We’re working on finishing off the interior now and then need to get our inspection approval. The inspectors won’t start that process until the space is finished off and equipped. As we make progress I’ll keep posting updates and when we are ready to start filling meat rewards I’ll start mailing out to people. We’ll be filling Vermont orders like yours earlier than distant shipping once since we’ll have our Vermont inspection first. If you have a change of address or will be away on holiday just let us know.
Why dont you get a grant? The government gives out millions no I mean bilions of dollars in grants to do this sort of project.
When we started our project we were explicitly told that there was no funding from the government for our type of project. Subsequently I found out that the government funded one in southern Vermont to the tune of $765,000 soon about nine months later – a pure grant that the butcher shop didn’t have to pay back or anything. Yes, it must be nice to get free money and not having to repay a loan principle or interest would certainly make it easier. Since that is my tax dollars funding my competitor it does seem rather strange…
I don’t have any philosophical objection to getting free money. I have applied for grants but am always told that we don’t qualify because: 1) we’re only processing for our farm; 2) we’re not hiring enough people; 3) we’re only hiring family; 4) we’re doing our own construction; 5) our project doesn’t benefit anyone else… The list goes on. They always have explanations. Holly thinks that it is a matter of who you know that determines if you get the grants or not. Perhaps she is right. I don’t smooze.
We persevere without any government or bank funding.
I am so in awe… I am literally just starting out. Im 30 years old. My husband and I are getting into butchering. I figure, well… it is a job that is always in demand. This year I am taking a class at a local college on butchering and it is USDA. I would love LOVE to be doing what you are doing. I am so intimidated. I feel like I have no idea where to start. Your pages here are a true inspiration. Thank you. God bless you in what you are doing!!
Learning in NY!
Amazing project! Will you so much success!
Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam comments? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any support is very much appreciated.
Well now, what an interesting question, especially since you are a spammer M. Mallory. I get a lot of spammers who post comments like this to try an appear human but let’s be clear, spammer’s aren’t human. In fact, most are bots. All get caught and fried.
Since you asked and I’m in the mood, let me explain what I do to fry spammers as there are real human bloggers who might want to know how to better deal with your ilk:
Between these techniques absolutely no spam gets through onto my blog and yours didn’t since I castrated it of links. For more about spam see these posts.
When are you due to commence processing animals through your butcher shop? The plans above said 2013 if I understood them correctly.
Very soon we hope. I just finished the plumbing in the trenches so now we can pour our final floors in the Administration and initial cutting quadrant of the butcher shop. I have a little electrical conduit and such to setup and then we’re ready for that pour. After that it will probably be two more months of work until we’re ready to open. Then it is a matter of getting our inspection and licenses which we can’t start until we have the physical space ready for the inspectors to see. They’ve actually been visiting all along as we’ve worked so hopefully things will go quickly and smoothly on that.
Walter- I am sure you have already answered this somewhere, but why did you not just build a regular building that took 6-8 months to build instead? It seems you could have built a 2 x 6 framed building, super insulated it, with washable walls on the inside and be up and running by now. I guess I just don’t understand the point of a concrete bunker and the vaulted ceilings and such. I am not criticizing you for it, I just want to understand your goals and the economics better.
A short answer is probably what you wanted: Our facility will cost a lot less to operate, require lower maintenance, use less energy, be easier to keep sanitary and is based on the best recommendations of the USDA standards. 2×6 frame building construction doesn’t achieve any of that. Our butcher shop will also last generations.
The long answer is quite long. Sometime I’ll pull it all together in a post about Better Building.
Your family’s projects amaze me. Building your own house. Building up a farm from scartch. Building a butcher shop. WHen people say they built something they normally mean they hired someone to build it and got a loan from the government or the banks to pay for it but you people really do it all. So amazing! And all the thinking and understanding that you put into designing and building things so they are better. So amazing!! Your kids are wonderful and lucky!
Someone wrote about the equipping progress:
>Positive news on butcher shop progress,the end is approaching! Hopefully by next winter you can reduce/eliminate trips to Massachusetts
The plan has always been to phase in gradually, starting with meat cutting but unfortunately we will have to still go weekly to Mass. We had toyed with going every other week and tested that but the slaughterhouse does not have enough temperature controlled hanging space to make that work. Really every week is the only way.
The other aspect of why we have to keep going weekly is that we can only transport six full size finisher pigs in the van at once plus a few roasters.
The good news is that once we’re doing the meat cutting and sausage making the money we save doing the work ourselves can then be spent to get the next phase going. It is a snowballing sort of thing.
Very impressive, Walter. I found your blog a few days ago when googling pastured pork methods as my wife and I are planning on farrowing pigs for a local grass based farm within one to two years, and I have got to say that your blog has been a veritable wealth of information. I do have to blame you for keeping me up to 2am multiple nights, though! You are a farmer, builder, inventor, innovator, writer, and a family man.
Thank you for taking the time to type all these things out for us random internet strangers to glean from. I’ve only been reading for a few days and it has already helped me tremendously.
You’re welcome and I hope our experiences are helpful. I enjoy writing. It is relaxing.
Walter – I’m wondering why you went with fully inspected on the butcher shop instead of custom exempt? I’ve been reading about it, and sounds like you could sell the animal on the hoof, then slaughter/process it for the customer under custom exempt. It could even be sold to multiple people, as long as it has been “sold” before processing. This is something we’re considering in the future and are trying to figure out.
Custom exempt would be appropriate if we were butchering other people’s animals for them or selling only directly to individuals. We don’t do that. We primarily sell in stores and restaurants as well as some direct sales to individuals. For this one must have at least state inspected which is really the same as USDA inspected thus we build to the same standards as USDA inspected. We have some out of state sales so eventually we’ll shift from the startup phase of state inspection to USDA inspection. In any case, Custom Exempt, State or USDA, I would want the same high quality facility for maximizing sanitation and food quality while minimizing cleaning effort and long term maintenance & repair – that part is about the long view.
you’re up and running?
Almost. I have a little final electrical, plumbing and other odd items to finish. Today I was putting in more of the stainless steel and equipment in the initial cutting room and Will was working on the butcher shop roof vent.
Always interesting to see people building interesting things.
You seem to be very much interested in reduced cost of operation, with common sense solutions. Have you considered using a solar preheater for water?
In a regulated food processing facility, you almost certainly will need to have some sort of gas or electrical water heating system to guarantee water temperatures, but a simple black hose water heater on the roof, or on the roof of a nearby shed, could preheat water between the water source and your water heaters, reducing the overall cost of heating water, without adding anything complex.
I can’t see anything concrete indicating you aren’t already planning that, but if you aren’t, I figured I would toss the idea your way.
Yes, there are two locations designed in for solar hot water preheating plus for compost heat to preheat the hot water as well. These won’t get implemented immediately but the conduits for them are already poured into the building. We also have propane and electric. Those cost money so I’ll look to use them as little as possible, just for the final boost to 185°F.
The cost of solar electric is also plummeting and I have designed in for the possibility of using that as well as hydroelectric in the future should the opportunity become enticing.
Love following your progress. Your family and your projects are SO amazing! Congratz on your latest achivement!
Your site is great and I can appreciate the time to providing the data in such orderly and informative fashion as you have. Nice work and keep cranking the American Dream. Double congrats on no loans. No man to report to and Nobody holding you hostage.
Congrats on your life!
We are building our USDA/State inspected on-farm meat processing facility in phases.
First we built the shell of the building as one unified structure. This makes it energy efficient and tight against vermin. Initially we’re only using a small portion of the building and this gives us room to expand as we have the time and money to build out the rest of the facility.
The most expensive part of hired processing is the butchering, the meat cutting and packing. That makes up about 50% of the total cost of processing. This is also the least expensive portion of the facility to finish off first. Thus we finished off the butcher shop portion where we cut the carcasses to chops and such first so that now we are saving that high cost of butchering.
Then we added sausage making which has added regulatory complications but is a minor addition to the process. This represents about another 15% of the cost of processing and lets us do some new types of sausage as well as having better control over the process, do smaller batches, etc.
If all goes well then next year we’ll add smoking which is the next most expensive part of the processing.
Later we’ll add the slaughter which is the least expensive part to have someone else do and the most expensive part to finish off in the building.
By breaking the project up into phases it makes it so that we can afford to do it financially and also makes it so that we only take on a small chunk of new learning with each phase. This keeps it all manageable and affordable.
Walter, how are you going to summon a USDA Food Inspector to come inspect your micro processing facility?
What’s the procedure to get one to come inspect for you… Just a number to call and set up an appointment?
Last summer we began the process of transitioning from State to USDA by sending in our application. We have our USDA plant number now and are awaiting a time when the regional USDA head can come do a walk through. I’m hoping it will be this month.
Apologies, I meant to ask about the process of getting an inspector for Processing Days, not the inspection of your butcher shop.
I don’t understand your question. Can you rephrase it? Both halves of what you wrote seem the same to me.
From everything I have read, an FSIS Inspector has to be on site during each processing event.
By the sounds of it hopefully I misunderstood something along the way.
For slaughter they have to be there for ante mortem inspection, the kill and post mortem inspection.
For other types of processing the inspector shows up at some time during the day and is there for some amount of time checking records, observing operations, etc but they are not there all the time. When we first started out they were there the whole day, then gradually fading out to just a little every inspected processing day as they felt we had everything under control and had completed our 90 day validation period.
An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague
who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually
ordered me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him…
lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.
Hey there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I suspect that most bloggers use the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors. I’m old school from back in the machine language era so I code in HTML/js. I find the WYSIWYG editors do not produce as tight or efficient code as I do by hand and I’m fast by hand since I’ve been doing it for so long.
Now that meat is becoming hard to find for the urban/retail consumer, I’m VERY hopeful that the artisanal butcher shops will have their renaissance. It’s way overdue!!