Fellows in the News

A 2011 change in Oregon law freed poultry processors from state licensing if they handle no more than 1,000 birds per year, raise the birds themselves and process them on site. The legislation changed Oregon law to line up with the federal standard, which says producers are exempt from mandatory USDA inspection and can sell uncooked poultry on the farm and at farmers’ markets if they stay below the 1,000-bird threshhold.

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Fargo said he’s received inquiries from four or five other states that are looking for ways to accommodate small farmers and small processors. “It’s absolutely a national thing,” he said.

Proof of that may be the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network, which shares information among affiliates in 40 states. Lauren Gwin, a small farms and community food systems specialist with Oregon State University Extension, is co-coordinator of the network.

Consumers are interested in pasture-raised poultry, sustainable production methods and humane treatment of farm animals, Gwin said. In addition, occasional salmonella outbreaks at large-scale processing facilities have “given some people pause.”

Despite that, small processors may struggle to transition beyond niche status, she said.

“Let’s be frank, conventional, mainstream meat production is enormous,” Gwin said. “This type of alternative meat … is very, very small. How do you mainstream some of this into more conventional channels?”

But she said some small producers will accomplish that.

“They’re very entrepreneurial,” she said. “These people will figure out where they fit in the market.”

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