Increasing Prosperity for Small Farms Through Sustainable Livestock Production, Processing, and Marketing
Keywords:Economic Impacts, Food Systems, Local, Livestock Producer Attitudes, Regional, USDA-Inspected Meat Processing
This article presents results from a multidisciplinary project that examined whether increased production and processing of livestock for local and regional markets was a feasible economic development strategy in rural areas of northern Idaho and eastern Washington. Currently no substantial, accessible feedlot or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected processing infrastructure exists in the study area, leading most small producers to sell their livestock at auction with few options for branding their products to participate in higher value markets. The closest substantial processing facilities are a four to six hour drive from the area — farther than most producers are willing to transport their livestock. To assess and overcome these barriers to local and regional markets, we explored the viability of different USDA-inspected processing options to better understand economic feasibility, environmental impacts, and the small-scale livestock production value chain (i.e., consumer demand, producer capacity and willingness to participate, and processing capacity). In this paper, we present results from stakeholder surveys, interviews, forums, and an economic impact analysis. Results indicate that several livestock processing development scenarios are socially, economically, and environmentally viable in the region. Project findings are relevant to many areas of the United States, especially areas of the West, that have low population densities, large transportation distances, and few processing options for small-scale livestock producers.
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