More Maine Meat

More Maine Meat has been featured in the Journal of the National Association of County Agriculture Agents.  You can read the article here.

For several years the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society has been focused on the push for better access to fresh and local produce.  Coupled with incredible consumer support for a better food system, much attention and good ground work has been laid to aggregate, distribute and facilitate opportunities for vegetable growers to deliver their produce at market prices that create farm viability and methods which are fundamentally better for living soil.  Get_wool-24 (1)This has been an exciting time for agriculture, and we could not have done it without the growing awareness that our farmers, our farmland, and our soils are a precious resource not to be squandered or starved in the process of delivering abundance at price minimums.In the meantime, Animal Agriculture continues to struggle to return profits to farmers and necessary by-products to the land that could add to the product diversity on Maine plates and soil life to productive farms.  Animal agriculture presents challenges to the production culture as well as product delivery that require critical mass to create solutions at all points.  Though we have abundant rainfall and forage potential, long winters and animal welfare require housing infrastructure and stored feed energy.  For the daily harvest of dairy, product delivery requires primary handling to a facility, sanitary processing and packaging, and distribution to access markets.  For the annual harvest of meat, add humane handling and slaughter, processing and further processing of products desired most by consumers, and safe food handling protocols for storage prior to sale.  All of this must be done at market clearing prices that return a profit for the farmer to prepare for the next cycle of feeding and housing and appropriately handle waste products for nutrient management of soils where it will not contaminate either directly consumed products to humans like vegetables, or animals in coDinner Timenfinement.

For animal agriculture to deliver the same kind of abundance at price minimums there needs to be economies of scale in each aspect of the industry and operating at or near capacity across the calendar year.  One focus of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) is a project we call More Maine Meat.  MESAS has convened a working group comprised of many stakeholders representing all links in the value chain, identifying a goal of more meat: born, raised and processed in Maine.  To meet this goal, challenges need to be identified and simultaneously remedied, while economic pressures set the stage for us as both price takers, and competitors.  To grow the industry and infrastructure, each link will need to make investments of time and capital.  While some products take two years to make market weight, processing facilities making upgrades may need that long to jump through the sanitation hoops.

With the larger goal in mind, each aspect of the industry has its own goal set.  MESAS is partnering on these goals and strategies to achieve them, also working closely on regional meat industry initiatives with The New England Farmer’s Union and the New England Beef to Institution Project.  Some of our target areas are:ODonnellCows

– Increasing herd or flock size
– A service/delivery model to facilitate price/cost optimization
– Twilight tours focusing on appropriate nutrient – management
– Policy to aid with profit maximization for farmers
– Policy to assist rural development for processing infrastructure
– Piloting innovative housing structure that also yield solar PV advantages

Once upon a time Maine had a strong resource economy providing tall pines for ship building.  Once clear cut, the thin soils on bedrock eroded from slopes and hilltops, Technology changed, businesses came and went, and hundred fifty years later we have a perfect soil system for one of our strongest industries: the Wild Blueberry.  The shared fishery resource has also not had the benefit of controlling collective harvest, as factory boats once gleaned our gulf and other users do not necessarily share the same interest of either ocean bottom or water quality.  Today we see climate, consumer demand, and distribution changes on the horizon and we are getting ready for it, in an intentional way, at all scales, and to be delivered to any farm system through the benefits of animal agriculture, that will strengthen our soils and our agricultural diversity and our production and processing opportunities.  It’s tricky, but MESAS in it for the long haul in a way that will benefit all of us here in Maine.

The Small Ruminant Toolbox is now available from the National Center for Appropriate Technology.  You can download the toolbox at their website.

The project has completed two surveys to date.  The first was a producer survey coordinated by Donna Coffin with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.  Her reports are as follows.
Final MMM report 2014
Producer Survey Final

The second survey was of slaughterhouses/processors.
MESAS More Maine Meat Processor Survey Final Report

Read an editorial about More Maine Meat in the national industry magazine Drover’s Cattle Network. (Click here for a PDF if link does not work.)

Interested in supporting the More Maine Meat Project.  You can do so by clicking on the “Donate” button below.

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