Venture aims to expand markets for small and midsize livestock producers
By MATTHEW WEAVER
EDWALL, Wash. -- Cattle Producers of Washington has formed a new cooperative to establish a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse.
The facility, to be located in Odessa, Wash., is slated to be operational in May 2012. The facility will be able to handle the equivalent of 20 head of cattle per day, said Sue Lani Madsen, president of the new CPOW Livestock Processors Cooperative Association.
Craig Vejraska, president of CPOW, said the facility will provide a retail outlet for smaller producers. A 1,500-pound steer normally brings in about $1,600, he said, but sold at retail the animal is worth nearly twice as much.
Every producer accessing the market directly is using a custom cut-and-wrap shop, said Madsen, a goat producer.
"We're trying to start rebuilding that small to midsize processing capacity infrastructure that's missing now," she said.
"Any opportunity out there to expand markets for producers of all sizes should be looked on as a good thing," said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association. "We've got two large-scale cattle-processing facilities, but it's very evident smaller-scale operations would certainly benefit from this facility."
CPOW intends to reach out to a target market of more than 200 ranchers within 200 miles of Odessa, including ranchers in Oregon and Idaho.
Studies show selling meat as "local" is the most desirable quality for many consumers, Madsen said.
Madsen said CPOW has met with several regional grocery stores and retailers.
CPOW will encourage membership with a two-tier pricing system, but will offer processing for cattle, sheep, goats and hogs. Madsen said CPOW would like to add a mobile abattoir for on-site slaughter, bringing carcasses to the facility for processing.
The facility will help ranchers who already have customers for their meat and may provide marketing connections to those interested.
It will also be able to provide prime cuts and ground meat, with the possibility of expanding to include secondary processing like sausages, snack sticks or curing, Madsen said. Another option is pet food, she added.
"At this point we're not trying to be the middleman, but we're very open to whatever we find the producers want," she said.
The operation stands to be profitable in the first full year of operation at 75 percent capacity. If it reaches full capacity, Madsen said the next step would be to find a location for another one.
"The whole point is not to create another big processor," she said. "The point is to create (processors) that can operate efficiently at a smaller number and closer to the producer."
The cooperative received a $1.2 million loan from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board and must provide a match of about $400,000 for noncapital expenses.
An advisory board meets the first week of May to consider pricing, membership and governance.
Madsen said the cooperative will begin seeking investment by mid-May.
Contact Sue Lani Madsen at 509-236-2311
Cattle Producers of Washington: www.cattleproducersofwa.org