North Carolina poultry processor closing; farmers in bind
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina poultry processing plant has closed, leaving farmers in six states in a bind as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw closer.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports Cool Hand Meats closed its doors last month because of what its owner says was a lack of capital. Cool Hand Meats provided Animal Welfare Act-approved and U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughter and processing services from a facility in Marion.
According to the newspaper, the nearest USDA-approved slaughterhouses are in Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas and Alabama.
“Farmers need to demand more money out of the customers if they’re going to make this extremely unique, high-welfare product work,” owner Amanda Carter said. “But it doesn’t matter if we hug the chicken if we can’t reduce the brutality throughout the supply chain.”
That means paying both farmers and slaughterhouse workers a fair wage, she said.
With no consistent community funding combined with huge turnover, high expenses and a short profit-making season, keeping the plant open was impossible, Carter said.
“Agriculture is seasonal, but we need to pay the bills 12 months out of the year,” she said.
Jamie Ager saw the writing on the wall early enough to put a processing facility in the back of his barn at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. An on-site kitchen will help with butchery and vacuum sealing. All of the birds will be slaughtered, processed and delivered in time for Thanksgiving.
Carter said she hopes a stakeholder steps in with enough capital investment to not only get the plant running again, to keep it running well into the future.
Many customers prepay for holiday birds, leaving it up to farmers to fill orders. Some farmers may have a smaller profit or lose money if they have to ship their birds far from their farms for slaughter.
Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com