The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it wants to help increase the availability of slaughterhouses to small livestock and poultry producers. The effort is part of the agency's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, which seeks to rebuild rural economies and bridge a gap between food producers and consumers.
Maps developed by the agency show that high densities of small cattle, pork and chicken producers lack access to federally and state-inspected slaughterhouses across the United States. USDA wants to help existing and new facilities increase slaughter availability in these regions to benefit local food systems and the public health. The maps showing cattle, pork and chicken facilities are available at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/KYF_maps-050410_FOR_RELEASE.pdf.
Glen Fisher (Texas), president of the American Sheep Industry Association, this week requested that USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service update its report to include processing facilities for lamb and sheep.
"One-third of the lamb produced in the United States is marketed through nontraditional routes including farmers markets and on-farm sales direct to consumers, as well as through smaller meat facilities to grocery stores and restaurant trade," commented Fisher. "It is estimated that 1.2 million lambs are marketed in the nontraditional channels with perhaps 300,000 of those being processed by major lamb companies.
"Given the importance of the smaller processing facilities to the sheep business, we hope USDA will agree to provide updated reports and maps that will offer more information to sheep operations that are seeking out the nontraditional marketing route," concluded Fisher.
The slaughterhouse initiative comes as small and very small slaughterhouses contend that USDA's call for updated Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) validation would put them out of business. Since the lamb industry utilizes many multiple species and multiple product plants, Fisher urged every consideration be taken to ensure the validation process accommodate the concerns that expenses could force the plants the sheep industry depends upon to go out of business or choose to not process lamb.
Comments on the compliance guide are being accepted through June 19 by writing to U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Mailstop 5474, Beltsville, MD 20705-5474. To review the document, go to www.aamp.com/documents/HACCPValidationLetters-3-19-2010.pdf. A series of public meetings to discuss and receive public input on the HACCP draft proposed guidance were announced with the first meeting taking place on June 14 at the USDA South Building, Jefferson Auditorium, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250.