Organic meat processor approved, NC Choices announces

Date posted: December 8, 2011

Three cowsRoger Winstead photo

In a boon to the local and niche meat industry in North Carolina, a Taylorsville meat processing company has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to process certified organic meats.

For over 30 years, Mays Meats of Taylorsville in Alexander County has provided custom and inspected meat processing services to local farmers who produce and sell niche meat products in local marketing channels. Mays Meats has been a leader in supporting the growth of the local meat industry by providing high-quality inspected meat processing services (e.g., slaughter, fabrication and value-added product development).

“It’s exciting to see the positive outcome of farmers and processors working together toward a common goal,” said NC Choices Coordinator Casey McKissick. NC Choices promotes sustainable meat production. “It’s these types of partnerships across the supply chain that are moving the local meat industry forward in North Carolina. Mays Meats is the only commercial processor in North Carolina to provide slaughter and cut and wrap services under organic certification. This will create more market opportunities for local livestock producers and product choices for local consumers.”

Longtime Mays Meats employee, Misty Dyson, coordinated the effort for USDA National Organic Program certification. “Our customers do a great job raising animals responsibly; having the option for processing under organic certification provides them with a level of third party verification that many consumers find valuable. Mays Meats is happy to provide this service to farmers as part of an overall effort to help them better market their meat products,” Dyson says.

Local beef producer Shelly Eagan of Cleveland County’s Proffitt Family Farms, worked closely with Mays Meats in navigating the application process for organic certification. “Misty and I started working together on this back in February 2011. I really don’t think we could have done it without working together. Our beef has been certified organic for the three years, but we couldn’t legally market using an organic label because we had nowhere to have the animals slaughtered under organic certification.” Eagan said.

“We’re thrilled to now have that option now,” she said. “I think there are a lot of folks out there who are actually raising animals ‘organically’ who might consider getting certified now that they can actually make those claims on their labels.”

Niche meats are meat products marketed based on attributes such as “organic,” “local,” “pasture-raised,” “grass-fed,” “humanely raised” and “grown without antibiotics or added hormones.” The local and niche meat industry in North Carolina has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, bringing new economic opportunities for farmers, processors and other industries that support the local food economy.

A recent review of meat and poultry sales through natural foods retailers shows the “natural and organic sector” growing at a much stronger rate than conventional meat and poultry sales. For example, between 2008 and 2010, nationwide red meat sales increased 1.7 percent whereas natural and organic red meat sales increased by 15 percent (Mintel 2010).

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), there has been a steep increase in the number of farmers in North Carolina who are securing their meat handlers’ registrations—a requirement for transporting and selling packaged, inspected meat. As of November 2011, 499 farmers held a meat handler’s registration. That number is nearly four-fold increase since 2007 (NCDA 2011).

For more information on processing services at Mays Meats see www.maysmeats.com or contact Misty Dyson at 828.632.2034. To stay informed of the latest in news, issues and educational opportunities related to the local meat industry in North Carolina, join the NC Choices email listserv at www.ncchoices.com/mailinglist.

NC Choices is an initiative of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) dedicated to advancing the local, niche meat industry in North Carolina through technical assistance, educational programming and networking opportunities. CEFS is a partnership among N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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