Lack of meat processing plants hurts Nevada County agriculture, economy

Ranchers say opening more USDA-inspected slaughter and processing facilities would help them stay in business and maintain working landscapes.

This holiday season, many families will enjoy a meal that includes locally raised meat. Nevada County has a longstanding community of farmers and ranchers, and is home to 151 farms with cattle, 45 with pigs, 77 with sheep and 70 with meat goats.

But that holiday ham, chuck roast or leg of lamb almost didn’t make it to the dinner table. For small-scale ranchers in Nevada County, getting meat slaughtered and butchered is a “circus” that grows more difficult each year. The businesses required to turn an animal into a meal — that slaughter, butcher, transport and store meat — are rare and growing rarer. Those missing links in the supply chain make local meat harder to raise and more expensive to buy.

Lack of meat processing plants hurts Nevada County agriculture, economy

Just 10 USDA-inspected facilities will slaughter beef north of Sacramento County. This kind of centralization makes the meat supply chain particularly vulnerable to shocks and disruptions such as COVID-19.

Lack of meat processing plants hurts Nevada County agriculture, economy

Ranchers say opening more USDA-inspected slaughter and processing facilities would help them stay in business and maintain working landscapes.

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