State Sells Mobile Poultry Processing Unit

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(Host)  A mobile poultry slaughterhouse purchased by the state several years ago has been sold. 

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports the new buyers are committed to keeping the unit on the road to help the state’s small producers.

(Zind)  For most Vermont farmers who raise chickens and turkey for meat, trucking the birds to an existing facility is time consuming and costly.  And do-it-yourself processing limits how producers can market the meat, because it doesn’t meet state inspection standards. 

For the past three years a state owned and inspected mobile processing unit that travels from farm to farm has been an answer to that problem. 

The state purchased the facility with 85 thousand dollars of state money and another 8 thousand from a private foundation.  It was then leased to a private operator. Last year the operator decided not to renew the lease.  After failing to find someone else to lease it, the state put the mobile unit on the auction block. 

The new owners are Lila Bennett and David Robb who operate Tangletown Farm in Middlesex. The couple raises a number of different birds and small animals for meat and Robb says the mobile unit will help them expand their market.

(Robb) "We really wanted it to stay in state because as  our business grows we really need it here."

(Zind) Robb says he’s also committed to keeping the facility on the road to help other small producers around the state. 

(Robb) "We can’t afford to only have it here and we don’t want to only have it here. It’s a shared resource."

(Zind) For three years the mobile slaughterhouse was operated by George Eisenhardt of Hyde Park.  Last year, Eisenhardt processed 18,000 birds with the mobile unit.  But he says people don’t raise meat birds in the winter, so he found that he couldn’t make a living from the business.

(Eisenhardt) "It was a very long day. The day started at 4:30 in the morning and sometimes ran to 8 or 9 o’clock at night. And there really isn’t any money in it unless it’s a year-round operation."

(Zind) Eisenhardt says a more profitable arrangement might involve the mobile processing facility traveling to a handful of centralized sites set up for the unit, instead of driving it from farm to farm.

New owner David Robb says he’s working with a farm program that provides business and technical assistance to come up with a plan to put the unit on the road this year.

(Robb) "Starting this spring, we are working with Vermont Farm Viability to come up with a long term plan of how to make that possible.  This is very necessary for all of the farmers around here."

(Host) The mobile poultry processing unit sold for $61,000 – about two-thirds of the price the state paid for it.  Officials say the sale price is fair given the depreciation of the equipment after several years of use.

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.



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