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Updated: June 1, 2020

Maine custom meat processors are easing bottleneck

Courtesy / Watson's Custom Butcher Shop Watson's Custom Butcher Shop in Etna is one of three custom meat-processing plants receiving a 90-day grant of inspection in response to increased demand for local meat during the pandemic.

The state has eased authorizations for three custom meat-processing plants in response to a pandemic-related bottleneck in the food supply chain. 

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has authorized 90-day grants of inspection to Hatch's Custom Meat Cutting in Crystal, Watson's Custom Butcher Shop in Etna and Blake's Slaughtering and Custom Cut Meats in Alexander, according to a news release.

Hatch's and Blake's will be the first inspected livestock slaughterhouses in Aroostook and Washington counties, respectively.

"Farmers need to get their animals to market, and this temporary authorization eases the process and allows more locally-raised meat to reach Maine people," the department’s commissioner, Amanda Beal, said in the release.

"We are pleased that this action will relieve extended wait times to schedule USDA-inspected services, and that inspected meat processing will be available in two underrepresented areas of the state."

Meat and poultry products sold in commerce must be inspected daily by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service or the DACF's Maine Meat and Poultry Inspection Program.

By law, custom slaughter operations are inspected annually by the department, or the meat does not enter commerce.  

"We are excited to welcome these custom processors to the MMPI program and to offer Maine livestock producers new local options to have their animals processed," Jennifer Eberly, state veterinarian and MMPI director, said. "We are fortunate to collaborate with Drs. Jason Bolton and Robson Machado, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, on this project, as they provided invaluable assistance in food safety plan coordination and review."

Courtesy / Hatch's Custom Meat Cutting
Hatch's Custom Meat Cutting in Crystal announced on its Facebook age in January that it unveiled a new slaughterhouse and processing facility, allowing it to efficiently meet the needs of local farmers.

The processors will have to meet the same food safety, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point and humane handling regulations as other state and USDA-inspected facilities. Sales of beef and pork products will be restricted to in-state sales only. 

The three custom operators joining MMPI were selected based on the geographic need for inspected services, processor capacity to institute HACCP review, review of physical facilities, prior annual inspection reports, and MMPI inspection staff capacity.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Hatch’s wrote that its authorization as a state-inspected facility offers a new local option to Aroostook County livestock producers to have their animals processed for state commerce.

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