Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press

Mark Anderson, owner of Champoeg Farm in St. Paul, Ore., calls to a group of pasture-raised turkey toms. Anderson said he processed and sold 900 turkeys this week in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. He said the $199,884 USDA grant he received will help him scale up to process more birds and enter bigger markets in the future. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA on Monday announced a $32 million investment nationwide in 167 small-scale meat and poultry processors.

In the Western four states — California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho — 13 processors were announced as grant recipients, which experts say will likely have a positive, though relatively small, impact on the Western meat market.

"I'm pleased that the USDA for the first time ever is directing dollars towards the small meat processing sector. That's never happened previously, so this is new and it's welcomed," said Rebecca Thistletwaite, director of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network based in Oregon.

The grant program, called the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant, was authorized by Congress in 2021 and was designed to help custom-exempt and similar processors achieve federal inspection status or the ability to operate under a state's interstate shipment program.

According to USDA, recipients may use the grant funding to cover expenses including facility improvements, modernizing processing equipment and packaging, labeling and food safety requirements needed to achieve a Federal Grant of Inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act. The improvements can also be used to help a processor be able to operate under a state's Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.

“Achieving a Federal Grant of Inspection or operating under a Cooperative Interstate Shipment program allows meat and poultry processors to ship products across state lines, pursue new market opportunities and better meet consumer and producer demand along the supply chain," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

Thistlethwaite of the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network said that although this grant is a "movement in the right direction," she was disappointed that this particular grant pool excluded existing USDA facilities and was only open to processors aiming to achieve inspection status.

Although investment in custom-exempt processors is good, she said, investments in existing USDA plants would have done more for the region in terms of increasing processing capacity. USDA does have other programs, including loan guarantees, available for existing USDA plants, but Thistlethwaite would like to see more investment there.

However, Thistlethwaite said she's pleased overall that federal dollars are going to help these grant recipients upgrade their systems to reach broader markets.

Mark Anderson, owner of Champoeg Farm in St. Paul, Ore., a poultry processor and one of the grant recipients, said his family is excited and grateful. The funding, he said, will help them upgrade sanitation equipment, hire consultants, scale up the number of birds processed annually and help Champoeg Farm reach across the state line into Washington's market.

"It's pretty fantastic," said Anderson, who raises and processes turkeys and geese and is considering adding chickens next year. "This is going to help us grow in a way that's astronomical. We're on a steep growing curve."

Grant recipients in the Western four states include:

California

• Bud’s Custom Meats Inc.

• Buckhorn Cafe Inc.

• Hoang An Inc.

Idaho

• Mountain View Custom Meats.

• Anderson’s Custom Meats LLC.

Oregon

• Champoeg Creek Farm LLC.

• BillyBob’s Butcher Shop LLC.

• Big Horn Meat Inc.

Washington

• Siebert Custom Slaughter and Meats LLC.

• Marzolf Meats LLC.

• Valley Rabbits LLC.

• Treebird Farm Inc.

• Carnation Farms.

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