The North Country area of New York state recently opened a new USDA-certified mobile poultry processing unit. The project is owned by a group called North Country Pastured, reports the North Country Public Radio.
The new unit provides poultry producers a way to have their birds processed locally, and certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Renee Smith and her husband starting raising birds three years ago. She says they soon started hearing from other North Country farmers - they had to send poultry out of state for processing to get it certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"So, that was what - it was the need from other people saying I want to be able to be USDA, how can we do this? Do you know of anyone? And that's when my partners and I decided to see, maybe there's something we can do,” she said.
The birds are brought in on one side, cleaned, and sent into the next room, "...from there, they're labeled and weighed, and then they go into the freezer," Smith explains.
All the processing will be overseen by a USDA inspector.
Syracuse University food studies professor Rick Welsh, who lived in the North Country for many years, co-owns the mobile unit. He says the USDA label will make a huge difference for producers and consumers.
"Up until last year, there was no USDA certified poultry processing in New York State. All the chicken that we eat, ate, came from out of state." Welsh says many North Country chicken are sent to Pennsylvania and other states for processing.
Welsh doesn't think they'll have any problem selling North Country raised and processed chicken. "We have done surveys of local retail outlets and local institutions, and we think there is plenty of demand for more than we can even produce. We cannot produce enough to meet the local demand."
Project supporters say that demand will encourage more small farms to raise chickens, and help return the North Country to its roots as a poultry producing region.