A few weeks ago, we began to explore the concept of a mobile slaughter unit as the solution to small scale farmers having no place within driving distance to process their sustainable, grass-fed meat.
The Lopez Community Land Trust, on Lopez Island (in the San Juan islands), started a project called the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative in 2000 and got the first ever mobile slaughter facility up and running back in 2003. In parts 1 and 2 we discussed what a mobile slaughter unit is, what it can accomplish, and the assessment phase for the creation of this unit.
The final piece to the puzzle, of course: who uses the facility? And does it make a positive difference for them? Farmer Nick Jones described to us how the unit made it possible for him and his wife to get into livestock farming, and how it has enabled them to take their business in a satisfying direction. As young farmers, the initial costs to starting up an operation can be intimidating; the combination of beginning on rented land with borrowed animals, as well as being able to sell their meat directly and locally, thanks to the unit, meant that farming was actually a viable choice for them.
The cost for slaughter, per head, is extremely expensive by American standards. This is because some portion goes towards equity and membership fees in the cooperative. Nick explained that people in the county are really proud of the unit, and everyone is affected by it. As a result of its success, restaurants and individual consumers are able to eat local meat, something they couldn’t do before 2003. When the farmers sell their product, they make sure to emphasize that they use the unit and what it means in terms of treatment of the animals, how the collective treat their staff, etc. In fact, he says, it has to be part of the sales pitch because the meat is so expensive, comparatively.
And the taste? Well, Nick’s biggest and best customer is the local bar and grill, and people call it the best burger on the island.