Local Food Resource Highlight: NC Choice’s Poultry Processing Resource One-Stop-Shop

— Written By Grace Baucom

Prestage Dept. of Poultry Science chickens.

NC Choices, a Center for Environmental Farming Systems initiative in collaboration with N.C. Cooperative Extension, “promotes sustainable food systems through the advancement of the local, niche, and pasture-based meat supply chain in North Carolina,” and aims to provide “information, technical assistance, educational programming, regulatory interpretation, and networking opportunities for farmers, extension agents, meat processors, buyers, distributors, and consumers.”

In 2017, the only small poultry processing facility in North Carolina closed, leaving many independent poultry producers in North Carolina without inspected processing options. While a new plant is still not up and running to date, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Meat and Poultry Inspection Division (MPID) does permit exempt-poultry farmers to conduct on-farm processing of poultry of their own raising (up to 1,000 poultry/year or greater than 1,000 but no more than 20,000 poultry/year if sold within state lines) without mandatory daily inspection, if they meet the respective criteria for the exemption stated in NCDA&CS MPID NOTICE 5-18 dated 12-3-2018 1,000 Poultry Exemption Requirements or the MPID Notice 6-18 dated 12-3-18  20,000 Poultry Exemption Requirement

The NCDA&CS MPID State Director also granted a “special exemption” during the processing crisis and until a new USDA facility is up and running. The special exemption allows poultry exempt operators to slaughter or process other persons’ poultry, provided all other provisions of MPID Notice 6-18 are followed. This also means that poultry exempt operators can charge for use of their equipment and services and producers can bring all their birds to a central location to process.

To help navigate these resources and processing updates, NC Choices has developed a North Carolina Poultry Processing Resources page thanks to financial support from the Cooperative Extension Local Food Program Team. The page is a one-stop-shop of information for poultry processing, and includes extensive resources related to North Carolina-specific regulations and exemptions. The page is divided into six primary categories: 

Each of the six category sites includes relevant information, hyperlinked resources, and/or contact information related to the topic, all of which are well organized and curated to support poultry producers navigating the processing stage. About the website’s content, the site notes that “All efforts were made to provide accurate and precise information pertaining to the laws and regulations surrounding the sale and processing of poultry and of red meats in North Carolina. Due to the changing nature of the regulatory system, it is important to verify the accuracy of these statements with the responsible regulatory agency, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Meat and Poultry Inspection Division.” 

 NC Choices has also put together a note regarding COVID-19 processing impacts for producers raising red meat, which directs affected producers to associated resources. Find the note on the Getting Started & FAQ page

In addition to the North Carolina Poultry Processing Resources page, the NC Choices website is also home to a variety of other resources related to niche meat production, including specific information for meat producers seeking technical assistance and beginning farmers interested in raising pastured meat. Folks working throughout the stages of the meat supply chain will also benefit from exploring the NC Choices Resources page, a site full of practical, accessible resources (including videos, downloadable PDFs, PowerPoints, and more) on topics ranging from marketing and product developing for niche meat to processing and teaching resources. 

For timely updates and information related to North Carolina niche meat production, make sure to follow NC Choices on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Post reviewed by NC Choices Director Sarah Blacklin and CultivateNC Program Manager Becky Bowen.