New Guide Available to Help Meat Processors Operate in Virginia

The ongoing pandemic highlights a demand for red meat processing facilities in Virginia, and a new guidebook has been created for entrepreneurs interested in establishing a business in the commonwealth.

While demand is high for small-volume red meat processing facilities, there are challenges that need to be addressed. Those include the availability of skilled labor for meat processing and a low return on investment, which may thwart potential investors.

The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability developed the manual to help guide potential meat processors through the typical operation and establishment of a slaughter and processing facility, and examine associated economic costs and revenues for typical operations of varying sizes.

A Study of Small-Volume Red Meat Processing in Virginia focuses on beef, pork, lamb and goat processing, and can be found in the VA FAIRS Resource Library at

“There has been significant interest in recent years in expanding the availability of local meat processing. Supply chain disruptions and empty store shelves due to the pandemic have only increased interest among farmers, entrepreneurs and government officials,” noted Wilmer Stoneman, interim executive director for VA FAIRS. “Empty meat shelves have a way of changing people’s perspectives on meat processing.”

Stoneman added that VA FAIRS typically receives inquiries about once a month about meat processing facilities. Since the pandemic began in March, that has increased to half a dozen calls every week.

“We get regular calls from livestock producers who can’t find a processor in their area or one that isn’t already booked up due to the high demand,” he said.

In the spring, farmers were reporting overwhelming demand for local meat, and many of them sold out their inventory. The increased business was welcome, but many found butchers and processing plants were booked well into 2021.

The VA FAIRS guide is intended to make it easier for new processors considering opening for business in Virginia by addressing planning considerations for them. Information in the guide was compiled from a literature and database search. It also relied on the expertise of Matson Consulting, which has experience creating feasibility studies for meat processing facilities across the U.S. The general literature resources are cited throughout the document.

The guide delves into several topics relevant to the general operation of meat slaughter and processing facilities, including an overview of the national and Virginia red meat industries. It also includes operating budget examples, case study comparisons and a listing of technical and financial resources.

VA FAIRS would like to recognize the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Meat and Poultry Services for its assistance. The guide was funded in part by a Rural Cooperative Development Grant administered by U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

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