Dec 1, 2022
The COVID 19 pandemic illuminated a number of weak points in the American food supply system.
The COVID 19 pandemic illuminated a number of weak points in the American food supply system. Close to home, one of the biggest obstacles faced by smaller scale meat and poultry farmers in the Hudson Valley was access to slaughterhouses. Even pre-pandemic, it was becoming clear that regionally, there is too much reliance on a few huge facilities where bottlenecks frequently occur.
Three regional businesses decided to do something about the issue, and over the past few years, the founders of Catskill Quality Meats (CQM) planned and constructed a new slaughterhouse facility in Ferndale New York. The owners say the goal was not just to support their own businesses but also those of the struggling farmers across their communities. The founders of this business include the owners of Hilly Acres Farm, a family-owned livestock producer in Jeffersonville, La Belle Farms in Ferndale, a family-run duck farm, and Bella Bella Gourmet Foods, a Connecticut-based gourmet poultry and specialty meats distributor.
“We have always been involved with our neighbor farms,” said La Belle owner Sergio Saravia. “Everyone was hit hard during COVID and we got together to do something that can help everyone. We moved as a unit. We’ve always seen this business as - we help them and they help us.”
On CQM’s behalf, HVADC assisted the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) in the submission of two applications for a USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program (RBDG). The ownership team worked with HVADC Business Technical Assistance provider Brian Zweig to craft the applications.
“Everyone who worked with us was excellent. Brian was very dedicated,” Saravia said of working with HVADC and the IDA. “It’s important and every dollar counts.”
The applications support the establishment of a red meat processing business and a poultry processing business, both of which will share a repurposed 18,000 square foot building at Le Belle Farms. The CQM red meat processing facility will occupy 9,000 square feet of space, and Stone Farm Live Poultry Market, LLC has been founded to establish the poultry processing facility on-site that will serve the needs of La Belle Farms and other poultry farms.
“Catskill Quality Meats is a much needed business in our community and the team behind it is doing an amazing job implementing quickly and in all the right ways,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling. “We are pleased RBDG saw the value too. Skilled labor is the backbone of a facility like this and we were pleased to assist in any way to make sure this exciting new business has all the resources it needs to operate at its best.”
The RBDG funding won by CQM is specifically for workforce training. There is currently a great shortage of workers with the skills needed to staff meat processing facilities. This shortage of qualified workers is a leading cause in supply chain bottlenecks that have resulted in product shortages and higher prices for red meat.
The project will provide hands-on training in slaughter, meat cutting, and meat processing. Training will cover cutting techniques, food and worker safety measures (including hazard analysis and critical control point - HACCP certification), communication skills, preventing shrink, and humane handling of animals.
The cost of this project is budgeted at $48,100, with Catskill Quality Meats contributing $24,100 of this expense and RBDG funding the remaining $24,000. The training began in September of 2022. The successful completion of this training program will result in the creation of at least 12 jobs at the new facility.
“We have everything in place and look to be operational in January,” said Salavia. “We are excited to get started. There is already a lot of room for growth.”
The number of jobs created at the facilities is expected to grow to 20 in three years. The location of these new businesses, in a building that will be shared, will also create efficiencies that include shared cooler and freezer space, as well as shared transportation infrastructure and operations. The result will be additional slaughter and processing capacity to serve the needs of livestock and poultry farmers in the Hudson Valley, creating new jobs and providing greater access to local food for area consumers.
To learn more about the Business Technical Assistance that HVADC can provide farms and food producers, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls.