State adds three custom meat processors to Maine’s food supply chain amid shortages

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 5:00pm

    AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Maine Meat and Poultry Inspection program is responding to the increased demand for local meat during the COVID-19 pandemic by easing a processing bottleneck in the food supply chain, a news release announced.

    MMPI is authorizing 90-day grants of inspection to three Maine-based custom slaughter operations, starting June 1.

    The temporary authorizations apply 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.

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

    “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,” stated Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner. “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 USDA-Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) or DACF's Program. By law, custom slaughter operations are inspected annually by DACF, and 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,” commented Dr. Jennifer Eberly, State Veterinarian, and MMPI Director. “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.”

    The processors will have to meet the same food safety, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), 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.