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Economic Feasibility of Mobile Processing Units for Small Scale Pasture Poultry Farmers


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The use of the mobile processing units (MPUs) for pasture poultry is growing rapidly. This study compared the economic feasibility of MPUs to two processing alternatives, traditional stationary processing on-farm plants and off-farm processing facilities. Our study combined a survey of pasture poultry farmers in Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas with the published research. Our findings suggest that MPUs and traditional on-farm processing alternatives have a lower processing cost, but that they require a higher initial investment than the off-farm option. In addition, off-farm processing at a USDA-inspected facility allows selling products for a higher price. We therefore expect, on average, a higher per-bird profit than with the other two options. However, the excess processing capacity of the MPU can make this option the most profitable.
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... As commercial poultry production progressed over the 20th century and into the 21st century, the size of flocks increased dramatically with nutrition and breeding technologies advancing and the industry becoming vertically integrated to the point of large commercial flocks dominating the poultry meat market (25). However, a new market phenomenon has emerged in the past few years in the rise of locally grown free-range or pasture flock raised birds with on-farm processing (28,29). While chicken can be marketed as either natural or organic, natural labeled poultry products generally outsell their organic counterparts (1). ...
... On-farm poultry processing using mobile poultry processing units (MPPUs) has become an attractive means for pasture flock growers to process their birds in preparation for the market (29). The mobile characteristic of these processing units offer distinct advantages for rural small flock producers where the nearest processing facilities may be located at distances that preclude ready access (3). ...
... The mobile characteristic of these processing units offer distinct advantages for rural small flock producers where the nearest processing facilities may be located at distances that preclude ready access (3). This is also consistent with the conclusion by Angioloni et al. (29) that MPPUs and on-farm processing setups cost more to purchase initially, but once established, enable a lower processing cost compared to off-farm alternatives. In addition, wastewater originating from on-farm processing and MPPUs generate lower total Kjeldahl nitrogen and total phosphate than conventional processing (6). ...
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While most of the focus on poultry microbiome research has been directed toward conventional poultry production, there is increasing interest in characterizing microbial populations originating from alternative or non-conventional poultry production. This is in part due to the growing general popularity in locally produced foods and more specifically the attractiveness of free-range or pasture raised poultry. Most of the focus of microbiome characterization in pasture flock birds has been on live bird production, primarily on the gastrointestinal tract. Interest in environmental impacts on production responses and management strategies have been key factors for comparative microbiome studies. This has important ramifications since these birds are not only raised under different conditions, but the grower cycle can be longer and in some cases slower growing breeds used. The impact of different feed additives is also of interest with some microbiome-based studies having examined the effect of feeding these additives to birds grown under pasture flock conditions. In the future, microbiome research approaches offer unique opportunities to develop better live bird management strategies and design optimal feed additive approaches for pasture flock poultry production systems.
... While possibly unsuitable for large herds or feedlots, where many large animals are sent to slaughter at the same time, requiring high-capacity processing facilities, on-farm slaughter may be a reasonable alternative for small farms [96,97], animals that are slaughtered in small numbers, such as culled dairy cows, and livestock that are suitable for consumption but not fit for transport due to, for example, lameness. Indirectly, on-farm slaughter may facilitate extensive grazing of cattle which can promote animal health [98] and nature conservation [99]. ...
... In some regions, the number of small-scale poultry farmers have increased in response to consumer demands, and the capacity to effectively process all birds has been reported to be insufficient in the USA [110,111], contributing to an increased interest in mobile slaughter units [6,97,109]. Lambooij et al. published a survey to investigate possibilities for mobile slaughter of livestock and poultry, and concluded that it may have advantages for small-scale producers [112], which was supported by others [96]. ...
... Reviewing the literature, O'Bryan et al. concluded that mobile slaughter may be the most efficient and economically feasible solution for many small-scale poultry farmers in the USA, but also that profitability varies on a case by case basis [97]. Angioloni et al. found that mobile slaughter units and traditional on-farm abattoirs for poultry had a lower processing cost, but that they required a higher initial investment than slaughter at U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected stationary plants [96]. In addition, off-farm processing allowed selling products for a higher price. ...
Large numbers of livestock are transported to slaughter. The journeys may cause considerable animal stress and suffering. They often involve separation from familiar groups and places, as well as exposure to a range of stressful stimuli. Stockpersons do not always understand the principles of efficient interaction with the animals and may have undesirable attitudes towards them, which worsens handling. This paper reviews the literature on farm animal transport to slaughter, its consequences and alternative approaches. On-farm slaughter may be conducted at a small stationary plant located on farm, at a mobile slaughter unit temporarily placed at or near the farm or by on-farm killing followed by transport of the dead animal to a nearby plant for further processing. On-farm slaughter has the potential to reduce pre-slaughter animal stress and improve meat quality by shorter or eliminated journeys, minimal exposure to unfamiliar environments, animals and persons and less time in lairage. This would be perceived as an improvement in relation to some of the practical and ethical issues linked to the slaughter of animals. However, research and development is needed for wider application of mobile slaughter and on-farm gunshot stunning. Issues related to animal welfare, food and occupational safety, waste management and public health should be investigated further.
... In the USA, several types of MPPU have been available for about 10 years [33,34], whereas in Europe, mobile slaughtering facilities are rare and only a few data are available. Accordingly, the present review will focus mainly on EU regulations and the EU situation. ...
... Since a MPPU requires substantial investment by the farmers, an evaluation of the economic feasibility of a MPPU compared to the current processing methods would allow farmers to plan their production method [34]. ...
... Angioloni et al. [34] showed a similar trend (decreasing costs with increasing number of slaughtered chickens) and showed that ten farmers sharing the ownership of the MPPU can achieve a higher profit than using alternative off-farm inspected slaughter facilities. In the USA, current estimates show that the cost is variable but within a close range. ...
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: Nowadays there is an increasing demand for poultry products from alternative rearing systems. These systems, commonly named pastured poultry production (PPP), are more expensive than intensive rearing system but sustain biodiversity, local economies and farm multi-functionality besides providing meat to which consumers attribute high ethical value and quality. PPP generally uses large outdoor runs, small number of animals and requires chickens adapted to natural environment. One of the most relevant obstacles to further development of PPP systems is related to the slaughtering of animals economically and at the same time complying with the sanitary regulations to maintain food safety standards. A possible solution could be represented by a Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (MPPU), which directly reaches the poultry farms. MPPU can consider a good compromise for the niche production providing an opportunity to small farmers to exploit the full potential of their production system. The aim of this review is to analyse the essential requisites and MPPU economic viability in an Italian system. Qualitative, societal aspects are discussed together with bird welfare and hygiene implications. The case study indicates the viability of MPPUs but notes that up scaling to medium sized operations would not be permissible under current EU regulations.
... A wide range of intellectual and physical work is required to implement AFS arrangements across food supply chains. This includes, for example, new farming strategies like cooperative regenerative agriculture (White 2020), new meat processing strategies such as mobile slaughtering facilities that serve many small farmers collectively (Angioloni et al. 2016), innovative distribution strategies like food hubs (Cleveland et al. 2014), equitable food purchasing commitments by food service organizations (Lo and Delwiche 2016), and community composting and mobile operations to redirect waste (Veggie Rescue 2021). ...
... Consistent with research that growing in size and scale is difficult for AFS (Angioloni et al. 2016;Dunning 2016;Tewari et al. 2018), the results suggest that between 2010 and 2019, AFS was made up of many, small businesses that rely on direct-to-consumer sales, but that AFS infrastructure that may enable broader and deeper production and distribution may be developing. First, there was high demand for direct-to-consumer sales positions at specialty food and beverage stores, consumer cooperatives, and farmers markets; conversely there was fewer Wholesale Sales, Buyer and Transportation openings. ...
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Advocates for structural change in the food system see opportunity in alternative food systems (AFS) to bolster sustainability and equity. Indeed, any alternative to industrial labor practices is assumed to be better. However, little is known about what types of jobs are building AFS or job quality. Failing to understand job quality in AFS risks building a sustainable but exploitative industry. Using a unique and large data set on job openings in AFS, this paper narrows this gap by providing an assessment of labor demand and job quality for AFS in the United States between 2010 and 2019. Job advertisements are matched to 2018 Standard Occupation Codes to characterize work. Wages are compared to living wage standards and median incomes by occupation and local labor market. Considering living wage tests and local labor market competitiveness together, the potential for high job quality in AFS is mixed. Optimistically, higher prices in occupation that are close to consumers and experiencing significant labor demand, like food service and sales, saw more competitive wages. However, these roles frequently failed to offer living wages. Farm work occupations underperformed compared to local labor markets. In addition, uncompetitive senior-level jobs may indicate low-quality career pathways for leadership roles charting paths forward in AFS. These results suggest more institutional action are necessary to enhance labor quality within these spaces and more broadly across the food system. These results also raise questions about who is able to participate in AFS development and whether barriers to participate may replicate equity blind spots.
... Moreover, moveable factories can be used for agri-food processing [62,63]. The pros and cons of moveable factories compared to fixed factories can be assessed through conventional methodologies, such as break-even calculations and safety assessments [64][65][66]. As well as production, moveable factories can be deployed for in-situ recycling of a wide variety of materials ranging from building demolition rubble to electronic equipment waste [67,68]. ...
... However, as illustrated in Figure 3, open source kits can provide products that are fit-forpurpose, but which are not in direct competition with the offerings of dominant manufacturers. Moreover, moveable product systems can be deployed in a wide range of situations where the offerings of established manufacturers are of limited usefulness [54][55][56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68]. Thus, moveable production systems can go beyond previous import-substitution industrialization and previous export-led industrialization that have failed to meet development needs in many parts of the world [22][23][24]136]. ...
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It has been claimed that technological advances will make it possible to make anything anywhere and to do so sustainably. In particular, making anything anywhere would increase the diversity of locations and participants involved in production, with positive effects for sustainability. For example, increasing the diversity of locations can reduce the long-distance transportation of materials and goods, which can improve the ecological sustainability of production. At the same time, increasing the diversity of people included in manufacturing can contribute to the spread of manufacturing communities, which can improve the social sustainability of production. However, physical production continues to be dominated by the same countries that have dominated global manufacturing in recent decades. Meanwhile, trade imbalances between rich and poor countries are similar to those of the past. In this paper, limitations and opportunities are explained for moveable production systems to increase the diversity of locations and participants in global production and trade. In addition, potential geopolitical barriers to the deployment of moveable production systems are explained.
... In particular, wing shaking determines a reduction in muscle glycogen and an alternate acidification of meat. To reduce the stress of transport, different mobile slaughtering houses have been proposed, which are maintained to only be suitable for small chicken farms [72][73][74][75]. ...
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As organic and conventional poultry production increased in the last decade, so did consumers’ concerns, sustainability requirements, and animal welfare as well as health issues. According to Reg. EU 848/2008 on organic production, poultry must be adapted to organic outdoor systems and cope with all the regulatory constraints in terms of nutrition, health, and welfare. Adaptability must take into account the above challenges, constraints, and concerns. Chicken adaptability should not only mean being able to use pasture and outdoor areas, but also mean being able to overcome, or be resilient to, the challenges of organic farming without compromising welfare, performance, and product quality. This commentary identifies solutions to the new challenges that organic poultry chains must face in future productive scenarios, detects consumer viewpoints to provide a perspective on organic poultry production, and summarizes as well as defines chicken adaptability to organic production, assessing the main factors of chicken adaptability.
... Lambooij et al. (2011) published a survey to investigate possibilities for mobile slaughter of livestock and poultry, and concluded that it may have advantages for small-scale producers, which was supported by e.g. Angioloni et al. (2015). ...
... From the kill cones or shackle hang system, carcasses are transferred to a scalder, which may be as simplistic as a bucket of hot water, and then plucked and placed in a holding container, usually made of plastic (New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, 2012;O'Bryan et al., 2014). In conventional systems, these processes are typically separated from downstream processing by a physical barrier due to the blood and offal waste produced (Keener et al., 2004;Angioloni et al., 2016). This barrier may not be present in MPPU's, although Mancinelli et al. (2018) describes an Italian MPPU with a barrier in place. ...
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Listeria monocytogenes is a psychrotrophic Gram positive organism that is considered one of the more critical foodborne pathogens of public health concern. To prevent illness the USDA and FDA enforce a zero-tolerance policy for Listeria on ready-to-eat foods such as delicatessen meats and poultry. Regardless, L. monocytogenes can still be isolated from food production facilities and retail products, indicating that current sanitation methods are not always sufficient. Both conventional and alternative poultry production and processing systems have also been identified as potential sources of Listeria spp. Concerns associated with alternative poultry production and processing can be further exacerbated by limitations on sanitation and available antimicrobials for usage in organic and natural poultry products. Furthermore, mobile poultry processing units often process organic and small-scale poultry farms that are not able to be processed by conventional standing facilities. These alternative production facilities and their products are often exempt from federal inspection, due to processing a relatively low number of carcasses. Due to these exemptions, it is unknown if sufficient sanitation is applied in these alternative processing facilities to prevent L. monocytogenes contamination. Organic processing restrictions may also impact which sanitizers and antimicrobials can be utilized. This review describes variations between conventional and mobile poultry processing units in conjunction with how L. monocytogenes may persist in the processing environment and on retail products. This review will also examine alternative antimicrobials proven to be effective against Listeria spp. and potentially be acceptable for use in alternative poultry production systems.
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Transporting cattle from farm to slaughterhouse is often stressful for the animal, which can impair the meat quality. With the gunshot method, the animal is stunned with a rifle shot while together with familiar herd members in their home environment, exsanguinated and transported to a nearby slaughterhouse. Aiming to assess the consequences for animal welfare and food safety, 20 Hereford steers aged 18–54 months were shot with .22 Magnum ammunition from an elevated position and distance of 6–12 m. Each time, only one out of four to seven animals in a 16 × 10 m corral was shot. Dressing was done on farm. Based on the animals’ behaviour and blood concentrations of cortisol, glucose and lactate, stress levels before shooting were low. Eleven animals were deeply stunned, the consciousness of seven others was ambiguous, and two were poorly stunned. Two animals were reshot. The bleed-out was satisfactory for all animals, and little or no faecal contamination was found on the carcasses. We conclude that the gunshot method is applicable to large beef steers while maintaining a satisfactory level of animal welfare and food safety, provided that the necessary conditions can be attained.
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Distances to common production and marketing supply chain destinations may vary, and this has economic and animal health implications for small-scale food animal operations. Proximity to these destinations can affect the economic viability and marketing decisions of small-scale operations and may represent significant barriers to sustainability. Data were collected using a cross-sectional survey conducted by the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Animal Health Monitoring System in 2011 using a stratified systematic sample of 16,000 small-scale (gross annual farm sales between US$10,000 and 499,999) operations from all 50 states. A total of 7925 food-animal operations were asked about the farthest one-way distance (in miles) to slaughter facilities, destinations where they sold animals or products, and feed sources. Across all small-scale operations, 95% of operations reported the farthest distance animals or products were transported for sale was 241 km (150 miles) or less. For distance to slaughter facilities, 95% of operations reported the farthest distance was 145 km (90 miles) or less. For feed shipped by a supplier, 95% of operations reported the farthest distance was 322 km (200 miles) or less. The 95th percentile for distance increased as farm sales increased, indicating larger operations were more likely to travel long distances. The results of this study are an important benchmark for understanding the economic and animal health implications of long transportation distances for operations that are small and/or focused on direct marketing.
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A survey was presented to Georgia independent poultry farmers to evaluate current processing options as well as desired future changes. A total of 82 Georgia farmers participated in the survey, 31 of whom were raising broilers at the time of the survey. Most of the farmers surveyed who were growing broilers at the time (81%) processed on-farm, but these were also the farmers who processed less than 1000 birds per year. The larger independent Georgia farmers processed off-farm in South Carolina and Kentucky, where there were processors that served small-scale farmers and provided USDA inspection. These out of state processing trips took place between 4 and 30 times per year for an average of 391 miles round trip. For farmers’ future needs, similar numbers of farmers wanted only on-farm or only off-farm drop off processing (22% and 25% respectively), but 40% of the farmers surveyed were open to more than one processing option. The farmers were also asked to evaluate the importance of several attributes of processing facilities, and they chose quality of service to be the most important processing facility attribute, followed by cost of processing, distance from the farm, and USDA inspection.
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Rearing poultry outdoors on pasture for egg and meat production is a growing industry in the USA. However, little has been written on farmers' experiences with this practice. This paper presents the results of in-depth interviews and surveys with 18 California pastured poultry producers (62% response rate). Although the sample size of growers is small in absolute numbers, it represents 62% of nearly all pastured poultry growers in California, a state known for the pioneering work of growers who specialize in alternative agricultural practices. Such alternative systems merit critical analysis in order to refine their implementation and contribution to sustainable food production. This research aims to provide such critical analysis of pastured poultry production, a highly innovative and emergent practice. Growers were queried concerning the values that brought them to participate in alternative animal production, the benefits and challenges of integrating pastured poultry into farming operations, the use of heritage and industrial breeds, and management practices. Results showed that the influence of Joel Salatin, farmer and author of Pastured Poultry Profits, tied with farmer desire to sustainably produce meat and/or eggs as the main drivers respondents gave for raising pastured poultry (39% each). Farmers reported the primary benefit of pastured poultry was soil fertility (61%), followed by marketing appeal (44%). The most commonly cited challenge to pastured poultry growers was predation of birds (44%) followed by cost of feed (22%). Pastured poultry were directly profitable to 50% of farmers, although 78% of respondents cited indirect profits through savings on items such as fertilizer and pest management. This paper places these results in the context of value-laden farmer decision-making.
In developed countries, small farmer entrepreneurs contemplating poultry production are becoming more interested in assessing mobile poultry processing units (MPPU) to add additional value to the birds they sell in urban or farmers’ markets. However, there continues to be a lack of viable poultry processing options for small flocks as evidenced by the recent United States Department of Agriculture map, which depicts the locations of both small farms and processing facilities, county by county, across the United States. This map substantiates the need for more affordable poultry processing options to serve small-scale farmers. Many small-scale farmers operate MPPUs under federal exemptions that exclude them from continuous inspections by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, but they are still required to meet all sanitation and wholesomeness requirements. Costs associated with processing are somewhat less under this exemption, but one is unable to sell poultry as having been inspected in the open market. The USDA-FSIS has also created a mobile slaughter unit compliance guide for those who wish to be USDA regulated. Either way, regulated or unregulated, the MPPU may be an affordable and efficient solution to add value to small flock production. Small-scale poultry farmers, both organic and pastured, may benefit from the opportunities associated with mobile processing.
This article examines the diversity of food networks that fit within the alternative food system of the United States. While farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture schemes, and corporate organic food markets all fit within the alternative food system, they differ greatly in the conventions and beliefs that they represent. The alternative food system has divided into two movements: corporate, weak alternative food networks; and local, strong alternative food networks. The weak corporate version focuses on protecting the environment; however, it neglects issues concerning labor standards, animal welfare, rural communities, small-scale farmers, and human health. Local, strong alternative food networks not only assure environmental protection, but they also address the issues that weak alternatives neglect. Using three case studies from the Washington, D.C. metro area, the author explains that strong alternative food networks are better suited to create social and political change because they challenge the foundations of the conventional food system: standardized and generic products, price-based competition, consolidated power, and global scale. To affect true social and political change in the United States, the author recommends supporting strong alternative food networks by creating the requisite cultural and political space for them to succeed.
This study examines the economic feasibility of two pasture poultry production operations (pasture pen and net range) by limited resource farmers (LRFs) using the Net Present Value (NPV) method of analysis. Results of the NPV method illustrated unacceptable investments for both production operations.
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