IGI helps to engineer a regional slaughter solution for Island farmers


At the Island Grown Initiative (IGI) annual Farmer’s Dinner in 2007, Island farmers and food producers asked IGI to help them develop local, safe, and humane slaughter options for their animals. In the years since, IGI has worked with Island nonprofits, community members, and farmers to pioneer a successful local slaughter solution for poultry, and is now collaborating on a regional slaughter solution for four-legged animals.

In 2010, we embarked on a collaborative process with the FARM Institute, South Mountain, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, and other Island farmers to investigate the feasibility of an Island-based slaughterhouse for four-legged animals. Island farmers and meat producers said their biggest challenges now are access to trailers and trucks to travel to and from the slaughterhouse, scheduling with the Steamship Authority, the long drive, and setting up convenient appointments at the slaughterhouse.

After investigating different potential sites on the Island where a permanent slaughter facility could be based, we discovered that another group was working on developing a slaughter facility in nearby Westport. The Southeastern Massachusetts Livestock Association (semala.org) has been working for years to develop plans and secure permits for their facility, and is now very close to breaking ground on a slaughterhouse, which they hope to have open in fall 2016. They are eager to work with our Island growers to make their facility a practical slaughter solution for Island farmers and animals.

Representatives from IGI and the FARM Institute are now part of the SEMALA board, and are working with them to find ways this slaughter facility could best serve Island growers. They are discussing preferential scheduling for Island farmers, and holding pens for mixed animal species.

“Rather than build a full facility here on the Vineyard, which would be complicated to staff and, at current rates of animal production, likely to be underused, it makes financial, logistical, and practical sense to work with SEMALA to make their facility provide a true regional solution for humane slaughter for farmers and their animals from our part of Massachusetts,” Keith Wilda, program leader for IGI’s Farm Hub, said.

In the coming year, IGI and the FARM Institute will focus on developing transportation solutions for Island farmers and meat producers to ease access to regional slaughterhouses, while continuing to collaborate with our neighbors at SEMALA.

To read more about the challenges of local slaughter, please visit islandgrown.org. Send questions and feedback to Keith Wilda at keith@islandgrown.org or Jon Previant at jon@farminstitute.org.

Sarah McKay, interim executive director
Island Grown Initiative