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Placer Sentinel

Placer Hopes to Bring Home the Bacon - and Wrap It, Too

Feb 23, 2016 12:00AM ● By Source: Chris Gray

Placer County and a group of local ranchers are exploring plans for a new animal processing facility to help ranchers more efficiently and sustainably bring their meat to market.

Funded by a $75,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and $50,000 in matching funds from the county, the partners will begin to develop a business plan in February to see if it makes business sense to build a cooperatively-owned, small-scale facility near Sheridan. If the study determines it won’t be profitable, the project won’t continue. The effort is being led by the grant recipient, Sierra Foothills Meat Company, a steering committee made up of meat producers, with assistance from Placer County and the University of California Cooperative Extension for Placer and Nevada counties.

“Right now, our ranchers have to go as far as Reno or Orland to have their livestock processed, only to have to import it back to the county to sell on the local market,” said Josh Huntsinger, Placer County agricultural commissioner. “By building a local facility, we’re improving economic opportunities for local agriculture, creating jobs and improving farm-to-table access to high-quality, locally-raised meat for Placer residents.”

The planned USDA-inspected facility could process between 1,500 and 3,000 animals annually - mostly cattle but also pigs, goats and sheep - which is small by comparison; the nation’s largest facilities process as many as 28,000 animals a day. Services would include animal slaughter and meat cutting and wrapping. The plant would be designed to ensure that it exceeds the guidelines for humane treatment set by Dr. Temple Grandin, the highest industry standard. The facility is expected to create 10 to 12 new jobs.

“Placer County has a great group of livestock producers and I believe the facility would be a great addition to help expand our current market,” said Karin Sinclair, Sierra Foothills Meat Company president. “We are so fortunate to have the fresh produce and products right here in Placer County, and adding local meat would hopefully encourage more producers to take part in supplying their products for local purchase.”

Every effort would be made to minimize the facility’s environmental footprint. Live animals would not be held at the facility for more than a day before slaughter, and drop-off and pick-up days would be limited to one or two days a week to limit traffic. Energy could be provided through the mPower program’s solar energy financing plan, and waste could be used to produce even more energy through conversion to natural gas.

The plan is expected to be complete by this summer, with a decision on whether to move forward planned in the fall.

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