USDA certifies mobile meat processing unit
Callicrate Cattle Co. will be authorized to process cattle within walking distance of where they were born and raised on the rolling plains of northwest Kansas after receiving a grant of inspection recently from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A mobile meat processing unit parked near St. Francis, Kan., will be used for on-farm processing of beef, lambs, goats and pigs. Most of the meat will be marketed through the wholesale and retail outlets of Ranch Foods Direct in Colorado Springs.
The most important aspect of on-farm processing is that it reduces stress on the livestock, which are routinely trucked hundreds of miles to large packing plants, according to Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct and Callicrate Cattle Co.
"It stands to reason that less stress is better for the animal and for meat quality," Callicrate says. "Some research on bison has shown that shipping them as little as 25 miles can reduce meat tenderness and quality substantially."
The idea of creating a more locally based processing alternative to large meatpacking plants extends back at least two decades, according to Laura Krebsbach, a nonprofit consultant who headed up the project to build the mobile processing unit.
Mobile units cost less to build than brick-and-mortar facilities and are more flexible because they can be moved between locations.
"While the demand for locally and responsibly raised meat is increasing, small farmers and ranchers who are best suited to fill that need have been losing access to custom processors as the meat industry consolidates," Krebsbach says. "We wanted to design something that was within the financial reach of rancher groups, nonprofits, co-ops or cut-and-wrap meat facilities. When you consider the carbon footprint, the environmental impact and animal welfare issues, as well as giving the producer more control over his product and putting more money in his pocket, this approach just makes so much sense for so many reasons."
USDA approval was officially granted on May 9. USDA inspection allows the meat to be sold in wholesale and retail markets across the U.S. and internationally. Only a few mobile meat processing units have been certified nationwide.
The unit can process up to 15 to 20 cattle per day with a USDA meat inspector overseeing the processing of each animal. That compares to large plants where inspectors monitor fast-moving lines that process an animal every 8 to 9 seconds. More information about the mobile processing concept, including photos and videos, are available at www.MobileMeatProcessing.com. Or contact Mike Callicrate by calling 785-332-8218.