Carnivore's Delight. It’s not often that you’ll find this space singing the praises of vertical integration in agriculture, but I was heartened to read this week that Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm (the subject of a September 2002 profile in Gourmet who became the national face of sustainable food production after being featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma) had bought the small, 70-year-old slaughterhouse in Virginia that processes his grass-fed cattle.
This is good news because small meatpacking operations in this country have been closing in droves, unable in many cases to comply with stringent USDA regulations designed for the enormous facilities that handle most American meat today. As a result, sustainable livestock farmers have had to truck their animals over great distances, or in some cases cease raising cattle, sheep, and hogs altogether for want of an approved slaughterhouse. T&E Meats, as Salatin’s company is known, will continue processing his animals and also those of nearby small producers.
I’m going to knock on wood, but I dare say Salatin may be part of a trend here. Earlier this spring, two other grass-fed beef producers, White Oak Pastures in Georgia and Paicines Ranch in California, opened their own slaughterhouses.
They obviously see a demand. Owning their own plants is a sure way to guarantee they can meet it.