Poultry Co op

Winter 2007-2008

by Diane Schivera

Cooperative Poultry Processors, COOPP, became a licensed, Maine State-Inspected poultry processing facility on October 15, 2007, and it plans to be certified-organic by MOFGA Certification Services LLC for the 2008 season. The facility is housed in a 42-foot refrigerated trailer at Snafu Acres farm, 259 Tillson Rd. in Monmouth. Snafu Acres is an organic dairy farm and raises natural poultry, llamas and swine.

Poultry processed under Maine State inspection can be sold at any wholesale or retail establishment and to restaurants within Maine. Federal regulations prohibit out-of-state sales of products processed in this facility, because it is state- rather than federally-inspected.

Initially COOPP will be open one day per week for processing and is willing to process chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. Birds will be cut into parts, if customers desire.

The 2007 cost for chickens is $3.50 for members and $3.75 for nonmembers; for turkeys, $8 for up to 20 pounds and up to $25 for 30 pounds and over. The cost reflects the fact that to be state-inspected, an inspector evaluates every bird. This procedure adds time and cost to processing and to other inspection requirements. Fewer birds can be processed per hour than at a custom bird processor. (Custom processing is done by the owner of the bird.)

State-inspected processing has additional regulations:

•    Birds must be not given grain for at least 24 hours before they are brought in for processing. Birds with grain in their crop will incur an increased fee.

•    Customers will be required to sign an affidavit stating that birds treated with a material requiring a withdrawal period have met that period.

•    Customers must be able to keep birds at 40 degrees F. for the trip home. To sell their poultry, customers must have a Food Handling license (available from Maine Department of Agriculture, 287- 3871).

Kate Dabney had the idea for a cooperative when she was processing state-inspected birds in Auburn. A co-op would be a way to share the costs and responsibility for operating a processing facility and reduce the cost of processing for members. This was in 2004, after the lease to the Auburn plant was terminated. People who had brought poultry to the Auburn plant and were interested in establishing another facility met in the early winter of 2004, and a core group emerged to become the steering committee for what later became COOPP. William Blaiklock was the chairman; Diane Schivera, assistant chair and secretary; and other members included Richard Beal, Kate Dabney, Nancy Smith and Paula and Mark Stotts. These folks have worked for the past three years to incorporate COOPP and establish this facility.

Many sources funded this pilot project, and COOPP is grateful for the assistance:

•    A Maine Initiatives Grant of $5,000 was used for research and planning;

•    An Agricultural Development grant received in May 2006 funded the Cooperative Development Institute’s feasibility study of the need for a state-inspected processing facility and formulation of a business plan;

•    An Agricultural Development grant received in June 2007 enabled COOPP to purchase the Mobile Processing Unit, set up the site and hold HACCP training.

COOPP was established as a cooperative on July 15, 2007. Membership is a one time, $100 fee, and the co-op is always pleased to accept new members. Presently the board includes Paula Stotts, president; Nancy Smith, vice president; William Blaiklock, secretary; Kate Dabney, treasurer; and Diane Schivera, technical advisor. Future ideas for the co-op include buying chicks and grain in bulk, group marketing, and making pet food. Contact a board member and join the co-op if you have other ideas.

COOPP will be available next year for processing, so begin planning now to grow poultry for farmers’ markets and other retail markets next year!

Diane Schivera is MOFGA’s organic livestock specialist. You can contact her at 568-4142 or [email protected].

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