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  You are here:  PublicationsMarketing and Business ReportsDemand for Certified Organic Slaughter in Maine   
 Demand for Certified Organic Slaughter in Maine Minimize

This report was assembled by Heather Omand, Marketing & Business Coordinator at MOFGA. Contact Heather with questions at homand@mofga.org or 207.568.6024.

Overview

In 2016, MOFGA Certification Services, LLC certified over 500 organic producers in Maine and New England; of which about 125 are livestock focused farms. Seventeen certified organic livestock farmers contributed to this report, or 14%. It is also important to note that this report does not include the potential demand for organic slaughter services and facilities represented by newly certified and soon-to-be certified organic livestock farmers. Still, we see a substantial demand for organic slaughter services even represented by this small sample size.

Animal Type Total # of Animals Low End Total # of Animals High End Expansion #'s
Chicken 3,570 4,590 5,980
Turkey 600 660 765
Geese 60 100 No difference
Duck 100 200 No difference
Total Poultry 4,330 5,550 7,045
Pig 300 375 Would expand, exact numbers unclear
Sheep/Lamb 65 100 150
Goat 10 40 75
Beef 250 350 550
Total Red Meat 625 865 1,150+

The chart above shows the demand for organic livestock slaughter represented by just 17 farms. Low and high end numbers are given because some farm's livestock production is impacted by a variety of factors such as: previous years market demand, current farm limitations (labor, pasture, etc.), and even natural occurrences like major storms or natural disasters. The column "Expansion Numbers" represent the higher animal numbers some farms suggested they would expand to if organic slaughter services were more available in Maine.

The numbers above represent animals produced by certified organic livestock farms that are both currently being processed organically as well as their organic animals that, by necessity, are currently being processed non-organically and therefore sold as conventional meat. There are currently only two red meat slaughter facilities in Maine that are certified for organic slaughter and processing and one poultry slaughter facility. These are located in Guilford, North Anson, and West Gardiner respectively. There are currently no USDA inspected, certified organic poultry processors, but the red meat facilities in Guilford and North Anson are USDA inspected. There is also a certified organic red meat processing facility in Center Conway, New Hampshire just over the Maine border.

Contact information for the farms that contributed to this report can be supplied to a facility that is interested to offer new certified organic animal processing services.

Additional Information Collected

One challenge for facilities that offer certified organic slaughter is an excess of demand for organic services by several different farms all at a similar time of year; instead of that demand being spread over time. This is especially true of particular animal types. The 17 farms were surveyed as to when they do or would want to have animals slaughtered. That information is represented below.

Animal Type Spring: Mar – May (# of farms) Summer: June – Aug Fall: Sep – Nov Winter: Dec - Feb
Chicken 7 7 9 2
Turkey 1   7  
Geese     1 1
Ducks 2   1 1
Pigs 8 5 9 5
Sheep/Lamb     5 1
Goat 1   2 1
Beef 8 6 12 7

This chart represents the number of farms that indicated they do/would want to slaughter animals at a particular time of year. It shows that fall would be in especially high demand across most animal types, but also demonstrates that some animals are typically only slaughtered at certain times of year. An obvious example is turkeys, which are typically slaughtered before Thanksgiving. Some, although not all, farms indicated whether they would be bringing a particular animal type monthly, weekly, or exactly how many times in a particular season. Contacting Heather Omand directly can provide access to this more detailed information. It may also be possible to estimate a particular number of animals per season or month based on the data that exists for these 17 farms. This could potentially assist a slaughter facility for business planning purposes.

Farmers were also asked which Maine counties they would travel to for organic slaughter and animal processing services. Generally, the southeastern/central area of the state represents the region that would serve the highest number of farms.

County Number of Farms Willing to Travel
Androscoggin 7
Aroostook 2
Cumberland 7
Franklin 5
Hancock 6
Kennebec 9
Knox 8
Lincoln 7
Oxford 4**
Penobscot 7
Piscataquis 1*
Somerset 3*
Sagadahoc 7
Waldo 10
Washington 5
York 5

* These are the counties that already offer certified organic red meat animal processing, which is likely why the numbers are low.

** East Conway Beef, just over the border from Oxford County in New Hampshire, likely influences demand for a processing facility in Oxford County as well.

Broader Context

The demand for organic food products in Maine and nationally is on the rise. In Maine, sales of organic products increased 74% from 2008 to 2014: $31M to $54M (2014 Organic Agriculture Census). Also in Maine, sales of organic livestock and livestock products increased by almost 73%; from $15M in 2008 to almost $26M in 2014. Total U.S. organic sales posted a new record of $43.3 billion in 2015; the largest dollar gain yet. This is up 11% from 2014 and far surpasses the overall food market’s growth rate of 3%. Nearly 5% of all food sold in the U.S. in 2015 was organic (Food Business News). While fruit and vegetables make up about 43% of the growth in organic food sales, all categories (including meats) are experiencing significant growth. 2016 has shown additional increase in the demand for organic products; on track with expectations that organic would continue to outpace total food sales in 2016 and beyond.

The increase in sales of organic food can be attributed to a variety of factors. New purchasing influences like health and wellness, safety, and social impact are motivating customers, whereas traditional factors such as price, taste, and convenience are holding less sway over consumer decisions (Food Business News). Additionally, the consumer is redefining food safety to highlight their increasing interest in products made with non-GMO ingredients or that are certified organic. Increased consumer demand for organic in 2015 can also be attributed to greater access to these products from mainstream retailers. As supermarkets, big box stores, membership warehouse clubs, and other outlets continued to increase organic offerings, organic options have become more available than ever before (Organic Trade Association).

The primary bottleneck in Maine for the expansion of organic protein sales (especially to retail markets) is the lack of widespread organic animal processing and slaughter services. Organic livestock farmers mentioned two additional criteria that slaughter facilities should consider: the need for USDA approved facilities (for out-of-state sales) and Good Animal Practices certification. In order for organic livestock farmers to sell to Whole Foods and similar markets, GAP certification is required. Currently, Maine has one of only five GAP certified livestock farmers in the country to receive a five star rating (of 1,200 total GAP certified livestock farms nationally). That farm is also certified organic. As certified organic livestock farmers look to meet regional demand for organic meat the demand for organic slaughter facilities will continue to rise as well.

More Information

The online Niche Meat Processing Assistance Network (NMPAN) (http://www.nichemeatprocessing.org/ has an excellent library of resources and national listserve for small scale meat processors.

The NMPAN article on obtaining organic certification is straightforward: http://articles.extension.org/pages/19710/certified-organic

And this NMPAN webinar covers what to expect from and how to prepare for a variety of third party audits, including organic certification: http://articles.extension.org/pages/73282/third-party-audits-for-meat-processors

MOFGA offers assistance completing the application for organic certification to meat processing facilities. Contact Katy Green at kgreen@mofga.org to access assistance. MOFGA Certification Services, LLC. Is an accredited organic certifier for meat processors.

If you are looking for another opinion, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a great 4 page fact sheet on "Organic Meat and Poultry Processing Basics" http://www.mda.state.mn.us/sitecore/content/Global/MDADocs/food/organic/organicmeatprod.aspx

Questions? Contact Heather Omand: homand@mofga.org or 207.568.6024

Read or download this article as a Word document or a PDF.


    

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