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Meaty Proposal

Group wants meat processing plant
to be established in the region

Feasibility study, farmer usage survey
recently completed


CAMPBELLSBURG, Ky. (November 2013) – Farmers within a 60-mile radius of Campbellsburg, Ky., may not have to travel so far in the future to process meat. Talk is growing that a meat processing plant may be established within Henry County to aid local producers in the region.

Cows

Photo provided

Belted Galloway beef cows graze on an Oldham County Farm owned by Jon Bednarski, who is among a local group pushing for the establishment of a meat processing plant in the area. Bednarski sells beef by the piece at area farmers’ markets through his business, Sherwood Acres Beef.

Oldham County producer Jon Bednarski, co-owner with Dan Weintraub of Sherwood Acres Beef in La Grange, said he likes the idea that he wouldn’t have to travel so far to process his beef. Bednarski is a member of the original steering committee that devised the idea to create a processing plant in this region for area farmers known as the Regional Multi-Species Livestock Processing Facility Steering Committee.
One of the main benefits would deal with distance, said Bednarski, who raises Belted Galloways. “It takes one to two hours to get to most processing plants.” Another factor is that farmers would have “more control over the way things are done.”
Bednarski thinks there are a lot of producers in the region that would benefit. Oldham County farms such as Ashbourne Farms and Foxhollow are part of “probably a dozen farms that process animals on a regular basis for their selves or for sale,” he said.
The committee has been looking for a permanent spot and Bednarski said there is “property in Henry County that might make a good location for a plant.” He said the people of Campbellsburg are more acceptable of the idea of a processing plant in their area.

Bednarski
Jon Bednarski

In fact, he pointed out that there is “a whole local food movement growing in that area.”
The steering committee has spoken to Sarah Fritschner, who says she is very excited about the idea of a local processing plant.
Fritschner is the coordinator for Louisville Farm to Table, which brings together area local farmers and foods with Louisville consumers. “Her goal is to get local food into schools and stores,” said Bednarski.
He said there are about 800 farms comprised of 10 acres or more in Henry County, and half contain cattle. Bednarski believes the general population does not realize how many farms are out there and how many people such a facility could possibly serve.
Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent believes this is something the area definitely needs. “There are three different facilities people in this area go to that are all at least one hour and 20 minutes away.”
Brent said the facility might be located on property the county owns in a commercial park near Campbellsburg that is in close proximity to I-71. He said the cost could be anywhere from $1.3 million to $3 million for a custom facility.
“We will need to find an investor or investors, and other sources of funding. USDA and Kentucky Agriculture Development funding will be a critical part of it,” Brent said. The facility could be run by “an individual or a co-op of farmers.”
He added that “people are becoming more and more interested in where their food comes from. I was told that we would need 50 head a week to break even.” Estimating that at 2500 head of animals, Brent believes that number is “doable.”
The Kentucky Center for Ag & Rural Development has completed a feasibility study to access the number of animals in the area that could potentially be processed and the number of producers who would benefit from it. Brent Lackey, Business Development Specialist for KCARD, said “We have gotten a good response from farmers to a survey that was conducted.”
Bednarski said 444 farmers responded to that survey. Results were presented by Lackey to the steering committee and other interested parties at a special two-hour meeting in September.
“The findings were favorable,” said Bednarski. KCARD was paid $3,500 to conduct the feasibility study.
A written copy of the feasibility study was given to the steering committee in October, so it can now be presented to potential processors or farmers who might be interested in the project, said Bednarski.
“Henry County is the area we are targeting,” he said, “based on discussions we’ve had with farmers and the county judge.” The feasibility study did not pinpoint this area, but many believe it is the ideal spot for such a facility.
Lackey thinks the “project will benefit farmers in the region.” It would be a USDA custom meat processing plant. Lackey said KCARD is interested in being interactive with its clients. If there are any problems, “we’ll work with them to determine the next step.”
In addition to determining the usage of such a facility, KCARD looked at demographics and the demand for local meat products. This venture has received financial support from agriculture development councils in Henry, Oldham, Trimble and Shelby counties, from the Cattleman’s Associations in Henry, Carroll, Trimble, Shelby and Oldham counties, and Louisville Metro government, along with the support of the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board.
The feasibility study projected the overall cost of the facility to be between $1.2 million and $1.3 million, said Bednarski. This amount includes funding for land acquisition, equipment and building the processing plant.
“The concept is for this to be regional, multi-species, USDA inspected, and hopefully to have a retail component as well as custom processing,” said Steve Moore, Henry County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Farmers would be able to bring their cattle, hogs, goats and sheep to the plant.
The next step is to find an existing processor who would be interested in running the facility on his own, or put together a group of investors and farmers to partner with an existing processor. If either is not a possibility because of no interested existing processor, a partnership would have to be put together and managers hired.
“We want input from locals, said Bednarski. “But we need investors and producers first before we can proceed.” Public input meetings would follow, as the facility would likely bring more jobs to the area.
“We’re hoping it will happen,” Bednarski said. “You have to crawl a little bit before you can get up and walk.”

• For more information, contact the Henry County Extension Office at (502) 845-2811.

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