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Is There a Future for Independent Plants?

_MG_6622The demand for locally produced meats is well-documented, and there are farmers eager to produce it. Too often the bottleneck in this scenario is simply an absence of independent processing facilities. A new report by Food and Water Watch explores the reasons behind this absence and the changes that would be needed to rectify it.

Entitled, “Where’s the Local Beef?,” the report describes an  monopolistic industry that favors large operations at the expense of smaller ones. Despite a large number of small start-ups, the authors note that most of these will go out of business. The current regulatory and industrial climate is just not designed for independent slaughter plants – existing or planned.

Among the obstacles faced by smaller plants (defined as having fewer than 500 employees) are: scale-inappropriate regulations, lack of skilled personnel, and a near absence of competition in the industry.  For instance in 2005, the top four beef-packing companies controlled over 80% of the market. Highlighting numerous interviews with independent plant owners, the report offers insight into the daily challenges faced by this important component of our local food economies. Finally, the authors offer suggestions and recommendations to facilitate their growth. Download the entire report here.

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