NEW HAVEN — A Weybridge man is proposing to establish the state’s first mobile slaughterhouse for large animals, a business he said will bring services directly to producers and help fill a sizable void of meat processing facilities in Vermont.
Mark Smith, a former farm worker and current alpine skiing coach at Green Mountain Valley School, has secured financing for the first phase of his plan, which will include the purchase of a mobile slaughter unit and the lease of an as-yet-to-be-determined building in the Middlebury/New Haven area to serve as a base of operations and butcher shop for processing and sales of meat.
If OK’d by state and federal authorities, Smith’s business — called Green Pasture Meats — would become the second meat processing facility to lay down roots in the Middlebury area this year. As reported last month in the Addison Independent, Ferrisburgh-based Vermont Livestock is seeking permission to expand its operation with a new, 11,442-square-foot slaughterhouse and meat-processing facility in Middlebury’s industrial park.
Smith said he has been refining his business plan for the past two years.
“There is a bottleneck of processing for producers,” Smith said of his research, which is corroborated by Vermont Agency of Agriculture. There are currently six slaughterhouse/meat processing facilities in the state, some of which have to book clients two years into the future. This has made it difficult, according to producers, to get cows, pigs and other large animals processed for sale in a market with a growing thirst for Vermont-raised agricultural products.
During the course of his research, Smith got in touch with Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven (no relation), who has a growing beef enterprise at the Smith Family Farm. Harvey Smith also spent many years on the House Agriculture Committee.
“He gave me a lot of insight into the broader challenge here in the state to produce and market your product,” Mark Smith said.
“We have a lot in this state to offer if we get it organized and market it effectively.”
He described three priorities for the business:
• Creating a comprehensive system of production, processing, marketing and distribution of meats from animals humanely raised and processed for a growing market demanding all-natural, high-quality products.
• Building a business that enhances and uses the growth of Vermont’s natural-fed beef, pork and lamb market.
• Creating opportunities for existing and new producers to grow their operations by building a reliable market for their products based on verifiable standards of the origin, ethical treatment and natural growth of their livestock.
Smith was pleased to report that he has received $750,000 in financing for his project and that the mobile slaughter unit has already been ordered. He is scanning Route 7 North in Middlebury and New Haven for a building to accommodate the butcher shop, processing and storage.
“We will see that mobile unit in the state by August,” Smith said. “That will give us time to set up a facility.”
That initial facility will have the capacity to process around 10 animals per week, according to Smith. The butcher shop will offer sale of meats and allow Green Pasture Meats to establish itself as a brand.
Two years from now, Smith expects Green Pasture Meats to increase the number of animals it will process and buy. And if things go well, he anticipates establishing a larger processing facility and perhaps multiple mobile slaughter units that will go to the farms to dispatch and quarter the animals.
He believes farmers will welcome the opportunity to have a mobile slaughter unit come and process animals. As it stands, animals have to be trucked large distances to facilities.
“The humane way to process or slaughter these animals, in my opinion, is to bring that component to the farm, or as close to it as possible,” Smith said.
Plans call for Green Pasture Meats to initially employ around five full- and part-time workers, according to Smith.
It is an operation that Harvey Smith believes will be in high demand.
“We have never had a large (mobile slaughter unit),” he said. “This will be a nice experience for the state of Vermont.”
Harvey Smith said state officials have for a long time talked about backing a mobile slaughterhouse for large animals. The state once offered such a facility exclusively for poultry.
“(The state) doesn’t have the financial resources to do something like this; it takes a private entrepreneur to come forward and make something happen,” Harvey Smith said. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about building on the successes of the past and the successes of diversified Vermont agriculture … It’s the entrepreneur that’s going to come forward and make these things happen.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent