This Thanksgiving, much attention has been paid to how your bird was raised, but how about the manner in which it was killed? The head meat buyer at Whole Foods, Theo Weening, made public the company’s effort to collaborate with both USDA and state regulatory agencies to develop certifiable mobile slaughterhouses for poultry. Before claiming a victory for the locavore movement, one has to ask, is this good news for family farmers?
First, understand that Whole Foods mobile units are a long way off. To begin with, the company must wade through USDA bureaucracy and has yet to identify an authority to approve a mobile poultry slaughter and processing facility. Whole Foods aims to overcome a barrier – the dearth of slaughterhouses – to a meet customer demand for local food products.
The number of USDA approved slaughterhouses has fallen dramatically over the last several years. The numbers vary; recent estimates cite a decline from 1,405 USDA approved slaughterhouses in 1992 to just 808 in 2008, with others as low as 550 in 2001 dropping to only 350 today. There is broad consensus in the sustainable food movement about improving the quality and quantity of slaughterhouses. Today, 99% of all animals raised for food are processed through the factory farm system. This consolidation of animal husbandry and continual agribusiness mergers has resulted in the channeling of the vast majority of meat through a few central slaughterhouses.Click to continue reading »