By KATIE ZEZIMA; Published: March 26, 2010
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined to 809 in 2008 from 1,211 in 1992, while the number of small farmers has increased by 108,000 in the past five years.
Fewer slaughterhouses to process local meat means less of it in butcher shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Chefs throughout the Northeast are partnering with farms to add locally-raised meat to their menus, satisfying a customer demand. But it is not always easy.
“There are a lot of people out there who raise great animals for us to use, and they don’t have the opportunity to get them to us because the slaughterhouses are going away,” said Bill Telepan, chef and owner of Telepan, a high-end restaurant in New York.
Mr. Telepan’s veal supplier, Duane Merrill of Walton, N.Y., said there was no slaughterhouse in Delaware County, “and it’s the size of Rhode Island.” Mr. Merrill said he also had difficulty finding adequate transport for veal cattle down to New York City.
Brian Moyer, director of Rural Vermont, a nonprofit farm advocacy group, uses the image of an hourglass. “At the top of the hourglass we’ve got the farmers,” he said, “the bottom part is consumers and in the middle, what’s straining those grains of sand, is the infrastructure that’s lacking.”
Vermont, a locavore’s paradise, is seeing increased demand for the facilities from both small-scale meat producers and dairy farmers, who are facing some of the lowest milk prices in years and are trying to diversify with beef cattle.
“People are trying to figure out how to get a little more money out of their herds,” said Randy Quenneville, program chief for the Vermont meat inspection service. “And with the interest in stuff being local, wanting to know where their food is coming from and how it was raised, there are more people looking to do this.”
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