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Chopping block on your doorstep

Ranchers in Kitsap County hope those in Clallam County show interest in their new mobile meat-processing unit.

Members of the Puget Sound Meat Producers Cooperative purchased it to humanely slaughter animals in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture standards.

Other mobile units exist but do not meet USDA codes so animal owners must keep or sell all of the animal, not parts.

"If I wanted to sell my meat locally, I couldn't do it because it's not USDA approved," said Curtis E. Beus,

director of Washington State University Clallam County Extension.

"A lot of animals are slaughtered locally but cannot be resold."

The lack of USDA-

approved butchers affects most counties surrounding Clallam County, which is one of the reasons mobile units started about eight years ago.

"Mom-and-pop (butcher) shops have gone out of business," he said.

"The closest places for USDA butchers are in Oregon or Eastern Washington and meat-processing plants."

Cheryl Ouellette, project manager for PSMPC, attributes butcher shops closing to retirement, high costs for upkeep and urban development.

At an agricultural summit in 2007 in Enumclaw, she and others who faced similar problems developed a cooperative that now has members in six Puget Sound counties.



Demonstration

The mobile meat-processing unit visits Clallam County from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at the Bekkevar Farm, 273054 Highway 101 east of Blyn.

Beus said the public is welcome but they should be aware that three cows and three hogs will be butchered.

"The day is for people to learn about the USDA approved process and if they want to use it," he said.

"There's a definite need for this here and we need people to get involved for this to continue."

Beus set up the introductory day but said future visits depend on interest.

Sheep and goats also can be butchered in the unit.

"There's no smell and no problems," Ouellette said.

"Everything is self-contained and includes waste-

water, the only things left behind are tire tracks."

Poultry butchering in smaller portable units is in the future, she said.

Each mobile unit consists of a lead butcher, assistant butcher, field manager, operations manager and USDA inspector.

"It's very progressive ... If there are a lot of farmers in one area, then we can move to where they are," Ouellette said.

"It's designed to keep the money in the farmer's pocket and local meat in the community."

For more information, see www.psmpc.org, call Curtis Beus at 417-2279 or Cheryl Ouellette at 253-278-3609.



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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