Chicken consumers in Utah are about to see a lot more poultry from an out-of-state zip code.
Utah meat inspectors recently shut down three small chicken farms, demanding that they either build their own processing facilities or halt business altogether.
For two years, the independently operated Clifford Family Farm, Christiansen Family Farms and McDowell family farm — all of which lack processing facilities — sent their chickens to be butchered at the much larger Utah Natural Meat, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The owner of the facility, Shayn Bowler, raises and butchers 5,000 chickens and 500 turkeys on his own each year and then sells them to customers who prefer to eat local, all-natural poultry. Bowler processed the only state-raised chickens for commercial vending in the entire state of Utah.
Initially, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved of this arrangement. But after reading the federal guidelines closely, meat inspectors in Utah determined that this private business exchange between local farmers was not safe.
Noel McSpadden, manager of Utah’s meat inspection program, told The Salt Lake Tribune that “The regulation is really there to protect the public.”
McSpadden explained that mixing chickens from different farms could be dangerous. In order to continue raising and selling chickens, she says, the three small farms would need to build their own separate facilities.
Grouping the chickens separately is a “non-issue,” says Julie Clifford of Clifford Family Farm. The chickens are already kept apart from one another, she explained. From the time they arrive at Bowler’s farm to the time they are processed and packaged they never come into contact.
And as for building a separate processing facility – that is simply not feasible, she told The Daily Caller News Foundation. It would cost her around $20 to $30 thousand dollars and she only raises around 200 chickens a year.
“I make barely any money selling chickens anyway,” she said. Clifford says raising chickens was never about the money, “It is what I am and what I do…I do it because I love it.” She wanted to be part of the solution, she says, and wanted to help bring local poultry to the people of Utah.
Clifford’s poultry operations, along with the two other farms, were shut down immediately after Bowler got the notice from Utah meat inspectors.
“There is no legal way for us to continue so all of the small chicken farms have shut down,” she noted.
Bowler was frustrated when inspectors forced him to stop doing business with the farms, arguing that regulations are preventing small farms from providing the community with products they demand.
“It’s hurting our economy,” he told the Tribune. “More and more people desire something raised locally that’s clean and natural, and there are farmers who want to give it to them. But because of the law and regulations, there are no other options.”
Clifford does not know if she or any of the other small farms will ever be able to sell chicken again. She is hoping that regulators can make an exemption for her and her fellow farmers, but the process could be lengthy and complicated.
When she asked USDA officials what must be done in order for her to start her poultry business again, the officials were not even sure if the changes would have to go through the federal agency or the legislative process.
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